Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published March 25, 2013




Lauren Gibbs – Lt. Governor’s Office
Office: 410-260-3847
Cell: 410-570-3115

Mark Luckner - CHRC
Office: 410-260-7046






Greater Lexington Park Proposal Expands Primary Care Options for Residents of St. Mary’s County

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (March 25, 2013) — Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown visited MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital to announce $750,000 in state funding for the Greater Lexington Park Health Enterprise Zone, which will be managed by MedStar St. Mary’s in partnership with several local community organizations. The Lt. Governor was joined by President of the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners Jack Russell, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital President Christine Wray and other hospital leadership, Director of the Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Dr. Carlessia A. Hussein, local health organizations, and other state and local officials.

"The Greater Lexington Park proposal is a prime example of the kind of innovative, creative thinking that the HEZ program is all about,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Addressing the persistent health disparities that exist in our communities is a moral and financial imperative. We are excited to be working with MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital and their partners on a plan that is going to expand access to primary care for more residents in Southern Maryland, while reducing the preventable admissions that are driving up costs."

Greater Lexington Park is among the first five locations in Maryland designated as Health Enterprise Zones (HEZs) earlier this year at an event in Annapolis. Championed by the Lt. Governor and jointly administered by the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the HEZ Initiative is a four-year pilot program with a budget of $4 million per year. Community coalitions in each of the five areas will receive a range of incentives, benefits, and grant funding to address unacceptable and persistent health disparities.

“As the trusted leader in caring for people and advancing health, all of us at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital actively seek ways to improve the quality of life for our community," said Christine Wray, FACHE, President of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital and Senior Vice President of MedStar Health.  "In order to reduce health disparities in Lexington Park, we started the Get Connected to Health program in 2008 as a means to close the gap.”

The proposal for the Greater Lexington Park HEZ seeks to improve public health outcomes in the Lexington Park, Great Mills, and Park Hall communities of St. Mary’s County, which are experiencing a severe shortage of primary care physicians. MedStar St. Mary’s plans to work with partners to create a new community health care center in Lexington Park, add five new primary care practitioners, one psychiatrist, and two licensed social workers in the Zone. With these changes, they are hoping to see reductions in preventable hospital emergency department visits, admissions, and readmissions for chronic diseases such as hypertension, asthma, and diabetes, as well as improved overall integration of primary care and behavioral health services in the community. Their proposal also includes innovative strategies like the development of a “health care transportation route” to address barriers to accessing health care experienced in the underserved communities in this rural area of the state.

“The HEZ opportunity provided a chance to partner with our colleagues and use creativity to design programs to reduce disparities while making a difference in the Lexington Park revitalization effort,” said Joan Gelrud, Vice President of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. “We can’t wait to bring additional providers to Lexington Park to provide culturally competent integrated primary care and behavioral health. This care will be supplemented with transportation via a van service along a 16-mile healthcare route, translator services and community health workers.” 

"MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital already has a strong relationship with community partners so the collaboration was a natural effort," said Lori Werrell, Director of Health Connections at MedStar St. Mary’s. "It takes the whole village to change health care disparities and in this case the village includes Walden Sierra Inc., St. Mary’s County Health Department and Department of Social Services, Greater Baden Medical Services, Minority Outreach Coalition, the County Community Development Corporation and Department of Aging and Human Services, the local Housing Authority, and the Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living, and many others.”

The HEZ program was established by the Maryland Health Improvement & Health Disparities Reduction Act, signed into law in April 2012.  The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) issued a Call for Proposals in October 2012 through which community organizations and local health departments could apply for HEZ designation status, to be awarded on a competitive basis.

Applications were evaluated based on a set of 13 review principles by an independent HEZ Review Committee comprised of experts in the fields of public health, health disparities, and health care delivery.  Areas designated as HEZs will have access to a range of incentives that include state income tax credits; hiring tax credits; loan repayment assistance; priority entrance into the state’s Patient Centered Medical Home Program; priority for available state electronic health record grant funding; additional grant funding from the Community Health Resources Commission; and capital grant support.

"Access to primary care is critical for the health of any community. The Greater Lexington Park Health Enterprise Zone will expand access to care  to help keep individuals and families healthy," said Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“The Commission is pleased to help implement Health Enterprise Zones," commented CHRC Commissioner Sue Kullen. "These efforts in St Mary's County will help bring much needed health care resources in an underserved rural area of the state."

The purposes of the HEZ Initiative are to: (1) Reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and among geographic areas; (2) Improve health care access and health outcomes in underserved communities; and (3) Reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and re-admissions. To receive designation as an HEZ, community coalitions identified contiguous geographic areas with measurable and documented economic disadvantage and poor health outcomes and proposed a creative plan for targeted investments in community health. Nineteen coalitions submitted proposals in fall 2012. The other four proposals chosen for the pilot program along with Greater Lexington Park were for HEZs located in Capitol Heights in Prince George’s County, Dorchester and Caroline Counties, West Baltimore, and Annapolis.

For additional information about the HEZ Initiative, please visit <

Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders. Under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland has implemented reforms that have expanded health coverage to more than 367,000 Marylanders, half of whom are children, established Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange, and put the State in position to maximize the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Independent analysis by the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has found that implementation of the ACA will benefit the state’s budget by $672 million through 2020, generate more than $3 billion in annual economic activity, cut the number of uninsured in half, and create more than 26,000 jobs.