Members of the public will be able to attend and ask questions about the proposed behavioral health diversion center in Rockville at a community forum at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Montgomery County officials will provide a project update.
The meeting can be attended in person at the Executive Office Building auditorium at 101 Monroe Street or virtually through Microsoft TEAMS.
Two meetings about the project were held in October 2022 and April 2023 to hear from City of Rockville officials and community members.
County officials participating in the meeting will include, Earl Stoddard, assistant chief administrative officer; Rolando Santiago, chief of Behavioral Health and Crisis Services in the Department of Health and Human Services; David Dise, director of the Department of General Services (DGS); and Greg Ossont, deputy director at DGS.
Previously called the “Restoration Center,” the diversion center is a behavioral health facility proposed by the county that will treat individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis on 1541 Seven Locks Road. County officials said in a press release that opening the diversion center will help reduce the use of emergency rooms and jails when treating individuals in crisis.
In the center there will be 25 spaces for people staying less than 24 hours and 20 beds for stays less than 72 hours. Currently the county has a 24-hour crisis center at 1301 Piccard Drive in Rockville with four beds available.
Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council are strongly opposed to the project, maintaining the site should not be located across the street from residential neighborhoods, such as the Fall Ridge community. In an Aug. 9, 2022 letter to County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council, and the Rockville City Council wrote that residents in nearby neighborhoods “have continually expressed strong opposition due to their concerns about the negative impact on public safety, noise and air pollution, and traffic congestion.”
According to the letter from the City Council, they received emails from residents and personal testimonies recounted various incidents in which people – detainees, escapees and released inmates – coming from the detention center had entered private residences, attempted to enter vehicles stopped at traffic signals and approached people walking the neighborhood and young children.
In a July 6 press release about the upcoming community forum, Elrich said, the diversion center is a new approach the county is taking to support mentally ill people who will or may come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“It is crucial that those who need behavioral treatment are able to receive proper and integrated access and care so that they may one day live healthy and productive lives,” he said.
Services at the center, which will be operational 24 hours/365 days a year, will be available to people in crisis who are dropped off by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or police, transferred from hospitals, released from the central processing unit at the detention center and inmates released from jail and court programs, according to the release.
A team of nurses, licensed mental health and addiction professionals, peer specialists and resource navigators will staff the center and variety of behavioral health services will be provided, including triage, crisis stabilization and warm hand-off referrals to appropriate services. The services are designed to stabilize individuals in crisis during the first few hours and up to three days, the release said.
When the diversion center is complete, it will be part of the already-approved Criminal Justice Complex (CJC),which will replace the detention center on an adjacent site at the north end of Seven Locks Road. The complex will have the same function as the detention center.
The Aug. 2022 letter from Rockville Mayor and Council, said that the proposed Diversion Center’s proximity to the existing Montgomery County Detention Center could deter those who seek care.