Prince George's planned to build a new police training facility with $20 million. The county constructed a mental health center instead.
LANHAM, MD — On April 19, Prince George's County broke ground on a new mental and behavioral health facility in Lanham. The renovated center will open in the former rehabilitation office of Doctors Community Medical Center. The county will finance most of the project with $20 million of diverted police funding.
Defunding The Police
Protesters across the nation have called to "defund the police." Most of these activists understand the heavy workload officers face. They also realize that police are often dispatched to scenes where they may not be the most appropriate personnel to respond.
Those calling to defund the police point to mental health emergencies and drug addiction as situations where other professionals may be more helpful. To ease police workload and create more sensitive treatment, some advocates are urging legislators to defer a sliver of the police budget to social services.
"Police officers are not equipped to handle individuals suffering a mental health crisis, and they should not be required to do so," Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a newsletter. "In the same vein, those suffering from illness should have the ability to be treated in a facility befitting their dignity and in a setting that is conducive to healing."
In this case, the shifted money was originally dedicated to a future training center for the Prince George's County Police Department. Alsobrooks insisted that police will eventually get their new building. For now, they must continue training at their Landover headquarters.
Alsobrooks justified the shakeup by pointing to the county's mental health, substance abuse and criminal justice challenges.
One-third of county inmates need mental health help, the county executive noted. She also estimated that about 70 percent of arrestees are intoxicated when they arrive at the jail.
"Prince George's County has been a behavioral health desert for far too long," Alsobrooks added. "Unfortunately, we've seen this lack of access to adequate treatment revealed within our criminal justice system."
The county currently has two acute care units for inpatient behavioral health issues like addiction. The limited resources forced half the Prince Georgians who needed behavioral treatment to go to hospitals outside the jurisdiction.