The Howard County Health Department has received a $629,000 state grant to establish a halfway house for women of child-bearing age who are substance abusers and their children who suffer from neglect or abuse.
County health officials expect to receive a formal award letter this week from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"It's a pretty healthy grant," said Frank McGloin, the county health department's addictions director. "We'll be able to do some good things."
At a Tuesday meeting of the county Board of Health, county health officer Dr. Joyce Boyd described the halfway house project and another project, the proposed expansion of an addictions treatment program at the Howard County Detention Center.
County health officials began working on the halfway house program at least a year ago. When it opens this fall, it will be the first in Maryland to target women with addictions and neglected or abused children, they say.
Though it will focus on Howard County women, the program will be open to women from throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. It will include up to 15 beds, along with an intensive outpatient treatment program for 20 women. Children will be able to stay with their mothers at the halfway house.
Men involved with the program's women and children also will receive similar help.
"We intend to involve the father or male significant other in the treatment of the family," Mr. McGloin said. "We're dealing with a family illness and trying to treat the whole family."
A still-to-be-determined nonprofit agency will operate the program, offering counseling, addictions treatment, classes for parents, transportation and day care.
Funding for the program comes from Howard County's share of a $22 million federal substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant, administered through the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The grant for Howard County's project will be renewed indefinitely, said Rick Sampson, director of the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.
Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Democrat from District 13A, who supported the halfway house proposal, said she is excited to see the program moving forward.
"I'm thrilled to see Howard County try this," Ms. Thomas said. The program is "an ideal model. Maybe we can help prevent a child from being born addicted."
In addition to the halfway house, the county health department plans to expand its addictions treatment program at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup, which currently treats up to 40 inmates a month, including some on work release.
The proposed expansion calls for treating up to 35 additional inmates on work release who have committed offenses related to substance abuse. Inmates would pay $27 a day to attend the program, which would be part of their sentences. The program could begin this fall.
"Hopefully it will make a very, very large impact on people," said Roxanne Clay, who coordinates the county health department's substance abuse treatment programs at the detention center. "We don't want people to fall through the cracks."