Proposal to build 24-hour mental healthcare facility in Rockville sparking controversy

Ella Castle

Residents voice concerns over mental health facility coming to Rockville Montgomery County is getting ready to build a new mental health center but it’s location is causing controversy. The plan is to put it near a neighborhood in Rockville, and some people aren’t too happy about that – and they […]

Some homeowners in Rockville say they’re upset with a Montgomery County plan to place a round-the-clock mental healthcare facility next to their neighborhood. 

A forum was held Thursday on the proposed “restoration center” that would provide 24/7 specialized care and evaluations for people experiencing behavioral mental health crises.

There were moments when things got heated during the meeting. But county leaders say they are moving along with the plan. They are currently in the design phase. Hospitals are overwhelmed, and the county needs additional space for people experiencing a mental crisis.

The idea of a mental health facility sitting in the seven locks community doesn’t sit well with many residents who showed up to the forum wearing yellow T-shirts. 

“Not in a residential area,” one teenage girl said at the podium. “It is not reasonable.”

“What type of site evaluation did you do?” asked another concerned resident. 

But not everyone who lives in the community feels that way. Those in support of the center say people living in the community who need help and resources shouldn’t be pushed away. 

“The restoration center is a public good!” one woman said.

“When you tell people you aren’t welcome in my neighborhood that is stigmatizing,” another woman added. 

Neighbors who live near the proposed site of the restoration center say they aren’t against mental health services. They agree it’s necessary — but not in their backyards. Safety is a huge concern of theirs. 

County leaders working on the project say the site needs to be in this neighborhood due to is proximity to the detention center. 

The mental health facility is set to be built on Montgomery County-owned property next to the county jail. 

Sara Devine of the Seven Locks Steering Committee says this isn’t a “nimby’ situation. Folks have lived next to the jail for years, but they say this is different.

“The key difference between that detention center and this new restoration center is that restoration center is going to be a 24/7 open facility with an open door policy!” Devine said. “To get in, the current model says they have to be referred from the county most likely a first responder of some sort, police or fire.”

Right now, when emergency officials respond to a person in a mental health crisis, they’re often taken to an emergency room. Dr. Earl Stoddard, Montgomery County’s assistant administrative officer, says they hear the community concerns and are trying to make the restoration center safe for both the patients and the neighbors.

“We’ve heard their concerns, but we think we can reduce those concerns through design and through implementation of this program in the right way,” Stoddard explained. “We actually did a site survey to a location very similar in Newark, Delaware and that’s right next to an elementary school. 

The Rockville City mayor and city council are opposed to the location. If the design process moves forward, the facility could open its doors in 2027. Some neighbors, however, haven’t ruled out going to court to stop that from happening. 

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