The Frederick County Health Department has opened the doors of its location on the Golden Mile, though it’s still a work in progress.
The center, above Masters Pharmacy in Rockledge Plaza — where the Health Department’s walk-in coronavirus testing site used to be — is open five days per week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The ultimate goal is for the center to become a place where community members can access Health Department services and programs from other county government offices, said Danielle Haskin, a health planner for the health department and one of the center’s two employees.
In August, the county’s Senior Services Division will start offering programs at the center, including its caregivers support group, the Veterans Advisory Council and Maryland Access Point, a state Department of Aging program to connect people who have “long-term care needs” with services.
Division staff members will help enroll eligible seniors in Medicare at the center.
The center is the Health Department’s first permanent location on the west side of the city of Frederick, an area with a high concentration of poverty and a large community of immigrants and Spanish speakers.
County Executive Jan Gardner set aside $335,885 in last year’s county budget for the Health Department to open its walk-in COVID-19 testing site. She allocated the same amount in this year’s budget for the department to keep the center open to help reduce health disparities in the county.
Community advocates have long said more health care resources are needed along the Golden Mile.
Many residents don’t have primary care doctors and miss out on annual check-ups and preventative screenings, like mammograms and diabetes testing, María Herrera — executive director of the Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland — told The Frederick News-Post last month.
The city’s Housing and Human Services Department also wants to bring a location to the Golden Mile. It’s studying the feasibility of adding a health center to the area, which would provide medical care to people who are uninsured and of moderate to low income.
Haskin and her colleague, community health worker Nicole Carrillo, want the county health department’s office on the Golden Mile to be accessible to all members of the surrounding community and feel warm and inviting.
There will always be a Spanish speaking staff member at the center when it’s open, Haskin said. Currently, that employee is Carrillo, who grew up in Ballenger Creek and worked at the health department’s COVID-19 test site, where she got to know many area residents.
It quickly became clear to her how important it was for the health department to have a location on the Golden Mile.
“I’m happy we’re here,” she said.
Although the center is hiring a third employee, it was up to Haskin and Carrillo to design the layout of the office.
They transformed one wall in the lobby to a giant blackboard, which now serves as a bilingual calendar of programs offered at the center. A cork board, where Haskin and Carrillo plan to post openings for jobs with paid time off and other benefits, hangs on another wall.
The center also includes office space for county government programs, a room with a shredder and printer, and a “calming room” with an armchair, a bean bag chair and a wooden bookshelf lined with potted plants.
The two women have been meeting with the leaders of nonprofits in the area to better understand the services needed in the west side of the city and how to connect with residents.
Haskin and Carrillo encouraged community members to stop by the center and share ideas for how the health department can best serve them.
“They’re the experts,” Haskin said.
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