How Do I Recognize What Might Be Addiction?

Addiction Awareness

Rodney Scales, Director of Behavioral Health at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, Valerie Stanfield, Coordinator of Intake Assessment, and Chelsea Lewis-Wilkins, Counselor, give their advice on alcohol and drug addiction.

How Do I Recognize What Might Be Addiction?

If you suspect a friend is suffering with addiction, these are some of the signs: rapid weight loss, poor hygiene, irritability, depression, radical changes in mood, financial problems, sniffing, enlarged pupils, changes to their social network, and living outside of their past values and belief system.

What can I do to help?

  • Open up the lines of communication. Ask your friend or loved one if anyone has expressed concern whether they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. This could be a sign others have recognized a problem, too.
  • Encourage them to enter into a program. There are many different levels of care available, says Stanfield, ranging from out-patient classes, to one-on-one or group therapy, to residential in-patient, intensive programs. The level of care someone needs can be determined through an assessment by a professional with experience in addiction.
  • Encourage them to seek out resources, including programs available through their county’s health department. If they have private insurance, their provider can also help direct them to available resources.
  • Encourage them to find meetings to help them in their sobriety journey, and you may find meetings helpful, as well. All areas of the country have meetings and there is even a phone app that can locate the nearest meetings wherever you are, say Stanfield and Lewis-Wilkins.
  • Be a part of their support system, as long as they follow their sobriety path.

What is MedStar Southern Maryland’s Approach to Addiction and Mental Health Resources?

At MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, the Inpatient Behavioral Health Department is designed for patients with a primary psychiatric diagnosis. Our treatment for those patients with a dual or co-occurring diagnosis of alcohol or other substance dependence is to stabilize and refer the patient to an appropriate substance abuse program for treatment. Our Behavioral Health Department is staffed with contracted professionals who have the tools to help these vulnerable patients, say Scales, Stansfield and Lewis-Wilkins.

“We’re here to ask for an honest depiction of a patient’s use,” said Lewis-Wilkins. “This helps us make an informed decision for the best course of treatment. Before a patient leaves the unit, whether they’re being discharged from the Emergency Department or the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit, we work with the patient to establish a plan which includes an outpatient appointment for further treatment. This appointment should occur during their first few days at home. In order for treatment to be successful, the patient must follow through with the treatment plan.”

“Once a patient is identified as having addiction issues, these patients are referred to our Certified Addictions Counselor who conducts additional assessments and coordinates referrals to inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities or outpatient treatment facilities, depending upon the patient’s level of need,” says Scales.

“In addition to the services currently provided on the Behavioral Health Unit, we also provide on-going substance abuse education to our patients who attend the Partial Hospitalization Program. We are also partnering with our Emergency Department to offer our substance abuse services to include all behavioral health patients who present to the Emergency Department. Our goal is to provide routine assessments, brief intervention and counseling services for those patients at risk, and referral and treatment for those patients who require this level of care.

All MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center patients needing addictions counseling and/or mental health help will be assessed at the hospital. If you are a community member in need of treatment for addiction, contact your local health department or a treatment center. This is a very serious problem and MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center is committed to helping patients needing alcohol and drug treatment.

Dr. Kevin Reed

“Regardless of the reason a person starts taking drugs, tolerance and dependency can develop quickly. A user constantly tries to replicate the first high they had by taking increasing amounts, since the effects of the drug diminishes over time. A drug overdose occurs when the body has been overloaded with prescription medications or illicit substances.

Opiates, such as heroin or prescription pain pills like Percocet, affect the breathing centers of the brain. A person may develop small contracted pupils, lose unconsciousness, breathing may become erratic and shallow. Ultimately breathing may completely stop, causing a lack of oxygen to the brain and possible death.

Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, produce a brief sense of euphoria and primarily affect the brain and the heart. Seizures or strokes can occur, as well as many heart-related conditions, including irregular heart rhythms, very high blood pressures, and a heart attack. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, leading to slurred speech, difficulty walking, lowering inhibitions leading to increasing risk taking behavior and possible memory loss or blackouts.

Drinking too much too quickly can affect your heart rate, breathing, body temperature, swallowing ability and potentially lead to coma and death. For chronic drinkers, a complex interaction in brain signaling chemicals can lead to a vicious cycle of increased drinking followed by greater tolerance that eventually leads to dependence and addiction. Alcohol withdrawal can be a life-threatening event that can involve severe tremors, high blood pressure and heart rate, agitation and seizures."

- Kevin Reed, MD, FAAEM, FACEP Chair of the Emergency Department

For more information, visit

Need Help?

Maryland's Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 to provide support, guidance, and assistance. 

Call 1-800-422-0009 
or 800-662-HELP (4357)


A variety of treatment options are available for individuals with addictions to drugs, alcohol and other substances. Other behavioral health services are also offered through the PG County Health Department. Interested individuals or family members should call the location nearest their home:

15 Tips for Eating Healthy While Dining Out

With Bonita Coe, MD, MBA, Director of MedStar Medical Group Waldorf

Bonita Coe, MD, MBA

When eating out, remember that restaurant food is inherently high in calories and salt. However, many restaurants have healthy options and provide calorie and nutrition information on their menus, which can help you choose healthier food options. 

Here are 15 tips from Dr. Coe to help you focus on eating healthy when you’re grabbing a meal on the go:

  1. Avoid sweetened beverages, juices and alcohol. Instead, order water with lemon or sugar-free choices as your beverage.
  2. Drink water frequently during the meal to achieve the sensation of feeling full faster.
  3. Many restaurant portions are much larger than you need or even want to eat. When your food comes to you, place half of it in a take-home box.
  4. Focus on ordering choices with fruits and vegetables as the predominant ingredients.
  5. If you are going to eat meat, avoid beef and focus on choices with chicken, turkey, and fish that are baked, roasted or grilled, and not fried.
  6. Avoid processed meats, like deli meats, bacon, ham, and sausage, including the turkey versions of these foods.
  7. Avoid salty snacks and sugary foods, pastries, candy and baked goods.
  8. Avoid choices rich with butter and rich sauces, as they are typically high in fat.
  9. Minimize starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta and white potatoes. Substitute the starch in a meal for another vegetable. If you are going to eat starches, whole wheat or whole grain bread and pasta are better choices.
  10. Ask the server not to bring bread to the table while you are waiting for your meal.
  11. Do not add salt to your food. Only add salt to your food on your plate after you have tasted your food. Use salt very sparingly, if at all.
  12. Avoid choices made with eggs and cheese.
  13. When planning to go out to eat or to an event, eat a small healthy snack before you go. You will eat less and be able to make healthier choices because you are not as hungry when you are ordering your meal.
  14. Avoid salad bars, hot food bars, and pre-prepared food venues, unless you are going to eat the fresh fruit and vegetables. Be aware that a lot of food put into salads bars comes out of a can, box or plastic pre-prepared package, which typically means it is high in sodium.
  15. Try ordering salads with the dressing on the side and avoid fried foods and foods with sauces and gravy on top.

Breakfast at McDonald’s

Egg McMuffin: 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, 730 milligrams of sodium Vs.
Big Breakfast with hotcakes and syrup, biscuit, scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns: 1,350 calories, 65 grams of fat, 2,100 milligrams of sodium

Lunch at Subway

6 Inch Carved Turkey Sandwich: 330 calories, 5 grams of fat, 890 milligrams of sodium Vs.
6 Inch Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt: 770 calories, 81 grams of fat, 1,580 milligrams of sodium

Afternoon Snack at Starbucks

Cold option - Teavana® Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ Tea: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat 
Hot Option - Caffè Americano: 10 calories, 0 grams of fat Vs.
Cold Option - Venti Unicorn Frappuccino: 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 310 milligrams of sodium
Hot Option - Venti White Chocolate Mocha: 530 calories, 21 grams of fat, 320 milligrams of sodium

Dinner at Taco Bell

Grilled Steak Soft Taco: 200 calories, 10 grams of fat, 490 milligrams of sodium
Chicken Soft Taco: 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 480 milligrams of sodium Vs.
XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito: 860 calories, 41 grams of fat, 2,200 milligrams of sodium

Late Night Snack

Baskin Robbins Right Choices Fat Free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt: 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of sodium Vs.
Cheesecake Factory Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake: 1680 calories, 49 grams of fat, 970 milligrams of sodium

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Coe today!

(301) 843-3888

If you need to find a doctor to help keep you healthy and give great advice on healthy living, search our Find-A-Doc feature ►

Spring Allergies Got You Feeling Down? Find Out What Primary Care Physician Laura Riggins, MD, Recommends To Find Relief

If Past Attempts at Relief Haven’t Worked, Don’t be Afraid to Try New Treatment Regimen 

For spring allergy sufferers, this time of year means the return of runny noses, congestion, sinus pressure, sneezing, dry coughing, headaches and itchy, red eyes.

According to the Allergy Foundation of America, researchers believe 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies, affecting as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children. The residents of Southern Maryland may be particularly at risk for spring allergies, as this area of the country contains a large population of allergy-causing birch, cedar and pine trees.

Actions taken now, at the start of spring allergy season, may help alleviate symptoms, says MedStar physician Laura Riggins, MD, who has seen vast improvements in allergy treatments during her career. Before allergy season starts, Dr. Riggins recommends seeing your primary care physician to talk about your symptoms and come up with a plan for dealing with your allergies.

Many over-the- counter anti-histamines and eye drops can help, though she cautions it is best to first try taking anti-histamines at night to see how much they affect you, in case the anti-histamine causes drowsiness. The newest anti-histamines and nasal sprays have been improved over older generations of drugs. Many new medications do not cause drowsiness and new nasal aerosols do not cause dripping or an unpleasant taste.

If your symptoms persist, your physician can also write stronger prescriptions or advise you on further testing to pinpoint specific allergies. A physician should also be consulted when using decongestants if you have an existing heart problem or high blood pressure.

Other tips for dealing with spring allergies include venturing outside during the afternoon hours after peak allergens spike in the mornings. Dr. Riggins also recommends changing clothes and washing one’s hair before going to bed to keep particles off of your sheets and pillowcases. If you own animals that go outside, a daily rinse of your pet can help.

“If you know you have allergies, you don’t just have to live with them and suffer,” says Dr. Laura Riggins. “You can be helped. There have been advancements in treatments and there exists a wide variety of medications that can help you, either by themselves or in a combination that works for you.”

If you need a MedStar primary care physician, Dr. Riggins is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment, call 301-292-1590.

For more information, please visit

Exercise Physiologist Allison Dominiecki Talks Starting an Exercise Program

In her eight years as an exercise physiologist at the hospital’s Cardiac Rehab, Allison Dominiecki has seen many scared, unhealthy patients go from an out-of-shape beginning to becoming a model of fitness. “There are so many wonderful patients,” says Dominiecki.  “They sometimes come here scared, with no confidence, or timid to be in a group setting.  I see how hard they work and the confidence they put in us, it’s just amazing to see.” 

Exercise Recommendations

  • Consult a physician before starting an exercise program to make sure you are tested for the presence of any pre-existing conditions, and to ensure your heart is healthy enough for exercise. Once you are ready, The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week.
  • Set realistic goals. Have a big goal in mind, but break that down into smaller, easier steps. 
  • Find something that appeals to you. When you enjoy your exercise, you will stick with it.  It’s also a great idea to involve your family, especially children, who can begin a lifetime of healthy behaviors now.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Just as you do not want to eat the same meal every day, make sure you vary your exercise to keep you from getting bored.  “You can try a spin class and end up loving it, like I did,” says Dominiecki, who also urges trying stretching, resistance training, aerobics, water aerobics and swimming.  Don’t forget strength training, she says, which can help improve muscle tone and strength.  It also helps shape and tone the body and burns calories.
  • “Remember that it’s never too late to start. We have several patients in their 90’s,” says Dominiecki. “And do not become discouraged, just keep going!”

What Vaccinations and Tests Are Needed at What Age?

Starting Your Year Out Right

Advice for all ages from pediatrician Pedro Sarmiento, MD, and internist Lauren Williams, MD

161026_096_rsNo matter your age, when it comes to starting 2017 off the right way, physicians agree on the three most important measures you can take to jumpstart your health in the New Year.  We have asked MedStar pediatrician Pedro Sarmiento, MD, and internist and pediatric specialist Lauren Williams, MD, for their best advice for starting your year out RIGHT.

The first theme cited by both physicians was eating healthy.  “You should start off the year committed to a well-balanced, healthy diet,” said Williams.  “If you need to lose weight, goals are important, but with a healthy diet, weight loss will follow.”  Both physicians recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, increasing your intake of water and decreasing or eliminating sugary drinks.  “I’d recommend avoiding fast food and processed foods,” said Dr. Sarmiento.  “Replace these meals with fresh food that you prepare at home.  Cooking at home, which is a great option for a quality family activity, lets you control ingredients, portion size and salt.”

The second theme important for overall health is to make sure you are active.  For both kids and adults, 30 minutes of exercise per day of some type of activity that increases the heart rate, is recommended.  While running or walking are the most common ways to exercise, and are great for engaging a family in a healthy activity, other options, like Zumba classes, could be fun, says Dr. Williams.  No matter what fitness program you begin, “Start slow, with small, manageable goals,” encourages Dr. Williams. She also advises post-menopausal women to incorporate weight-bearing exercise into their routine to increase bone strength.

Dr. Sarmiento says outdoor activities like skiing and ice skating are great options for winter exercise, as well.   Additionally, for kids, Dr. Sarmiento recommends limiting TV, computer and video time.  He also cautions against not only smoking, but vaping, which is also detrimental to health.

Third, both physicians advise all ages to make sure to schedule annual physicals.  “We recommend annual physicals for all adults, even if you are a healthy person,” says Dr. Williams.  “Annual physicals help keep adults up-to-date on vaccines and give us results for cholesterol, blood sugar, kidney function, hypertension and overall internal health.  Also, since not every disease shows up with symptoms, annual physicals can detect silent problems, like high blood pressure.”


What Vaccinations and Tests Are Needed at What Age?


For Teens

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics and both physicians recommend HPV immunizations, anytime from age nine through 26.  This series of three vaccinations prevent infections that can cause cervical cancer and oral and genital warts.  The immunization against HPV is only effective as a prevention measure, not as a cure. 

For Women

  • Pap:  This test for cervical cancer should typically be done once every three years, beginning at age 21.
  • Mammogram:  This test to detect breast cancer should be done yearly, beginning at age 40, unless there is a family history of breast cancer, which means beginning testing before the age of 40.

For Men

  • Prostate Cancer Screening:  Beginning at age 50, men should submit to either a blood test or rectal exam to detect prostate cancer.  African-American and other minority men, or men with increased risk factors should begin tests at age 40.
  • Colon Cancer Screenings:  At age 50, men should undergo a colonoscopy to detect colon cancer, and repeat this test every 10 years.

For all adults

  • Yearly flu shots are recommended, particularly for those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease.
  • Tetanus shots are recommended every 10 years.
  • Pneumonia vaccines are recommended for adults age 65 or older.
  • Shingles vaccines are recommended after age 60.  Shingles vaccines are  given to prevent developing the disease and decreasing long term effects in the event that shingles still occurs after vaccination, says Dr. Williams.

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center wishes you a happy, healthy New Year!  For more information about scheduling a physical, finding a doctor or learning about our hospital, visit

Dietitian Michael Booth on Healthy Eating

boothThere’s no disputing the proof that Michael Booth knows what he’s talking about when it comes to healthy eating.  His “before body,” one hundred pounds heavier than his “after body,” means he not only practices what he preaches and knows the best tips having tried them himself, but he also can empathize with patients struggling to become healthier by making better food choices. 

The Howard graduate in Nutritional Sciences and registered dietician offers the following tips:

  1. Consult your doctor before beginning any new eating and exercise pattern.
  2. Set small, reasonable goals. Rather than trying to lose a great deal of weight quickly, make small changes. For example, limit mindless snacking in front of the TV and cut back on the number visits to fast food restaurants. This will make a big impact over the long term.
  3. Eat until satisfied and don’t stuff yourself past the point of fullness. If takes you about 20 minutes to recognize that you are getting full. Slow down, chew your food, and listen to your body. It will be your guide to determining just how much you should be eating.
  4. Often, portion control has more of an impact than changing the food you typically eat. When you go to a restaurant, for example, you can ask for half your portion as a meal and half to take home for another meal. Spreading your calories in 5-6 small meals throughout the day will keep you from overeating.  
  5. Do your research and learn how to choose healthy food. Fad diets aren’t made for long term results.  Instead, visit, which gives practical advice on how to portion what you eat to ensure adequate intake of macro- and micronutrients. “What helped me get where I wanted to be was learning the science behind what I was doing,” said Booth.
  6. Choose fresh and whole foods versus pre-packaged or fast food. One way to control ingredients is to cook at home, which can be made into a fun, family activity. This will help cut down on sugar, fat and salt intake which in excess can lead to the development of various chronic diseases.
  7. Cut down on sugar, fat and salt. Salt has an even greater negative effect on African-Americans, says Booth.
  8. Find opportunities to replace soda and juice with water. There are hidden calories in many drinks that can really increase your daily calorie count.
  9. Eat until satisfied, not full.
  10. Add exercise. According to the CDC, the general recommendation for most healthy adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. briskly walking). Taking a walk with your kids benefits everyone’s hearts.
  11. Measure your progress, but do not be discouraged by the scale. The scale may not be changing, but as you increase your level of physical activity, you will likely be decreasing the amount of fat and increasing the amount of muscle stored on your body. In this case, it is a good idea to use a tape measure in combination with the scale to truly track your success.

Your Primary Care Doctor, PromptCare Facility or the ER — Where Should You Go?

Nosheen Azam, MD, Michael Antonis, DO, and Tara Saggar, MD.

The way to receive the proper care when you’re ill is to go to the correct doctor who can best address your health care needs.  Developing a long-term relationship with your primary care doctor is very important, but when you are unable to see them, we present a guide that shows when to use our MedStar Health Urgent Care facilities or our Emergency Department.

When to Go to Your Primary Care Doctor

Unless you are experiencing a traumatic injury, this should be your first choice.  It is important to have a primary doctor and to schedule regular visits, so that physician gets to know you well and can proactively deal with any health problems before those problems advance.  Not only does regularly visiting your primary care doctor keep you healthier, which proves to be more cost-effective over the long-run, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you when you are having trouble.

“As primary care doctors, we like to monitor your health, and to guide and steer you in the right direction,” says internist Tara Saggar, MD.  “We always want to know first what is going on, and we can help guide patients and get you the level of care you need.  We’re the goal keepers who know when we can help you, or where we should send you if, for example, you need imaging or certain tests better suited to a PromptCare facility or to the ED.”

When to Visit a PromptCare Facility

MedStar Health Urgent Care is ideal for a range of illnesses that arise outside of your primary care doctor’s office hours, but are not serious enough for an ED visit.  Some examples of PromptCare-treated issues are sports injuries, sprains, cuts and scrapes, and most facilities provide basic lab and X-ray service. 

“We can treat simple colds and sore throats, as well as simple infections, like ear infections,” explains Nosheen Azam, MD, who is stationed at MedStar Health Urgent Care Waldorf.  “When a patient can’t get into their doctor or doesn’t want to wait at an ER, we can treat them for issues like strep, flu and urinary tract infections.  We can also provide urine pregnancy tests and basic blood work to determine whether a patient is low on electrolytes or is anemic.  PromptCare can also treat patients with IV fluids for mild to moderate dehydration.” 

When to Rush to an Emergency Room

For trauma involving your face or head, for open fractures, big lacerations, injuries you believe may require a CAT scan and for any life-threatening emergencies, head straight to the ER.  There, physicians like Michael S. Antonis, MD, can work on the most complex emergency cases, order more sophisticated lab procedures and tests than PromptCare facilities and treat serious injuries 24-hours a day.

“We really want you to be proactive about your health because a primary care physician establishes a relationship with you and gets to know you, your health and your medications,” says Antonis, echoing the message of Dr. Saggar.  “They can always help coordinate care for you, especially when they’re in the MedStar Network.  If you do need to come to the ER, it’s easy for us to call and talk to them and consult with them when they know your history.”  As a safety measure, Antonis also recommends everyone type in a list of all medications and dosages into their cell phones, or to take a photo of the labels on your medications and keep that on your phone in case of an emergency.

Antonis estimates around 250 cases per month that come into the MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center  ED who should have gone to either the patient’s primary care physician or a PromptCare facility.  He estimates that within the next few years, MedStar will be on a completely integrated system which will give ED, MedStar Health Urgent Care, and MedStar physicians instant access to the complete medical records of patients, which enables seamless and accurate ordering, documentation and billing. 

MedStar is proud to provide PromptCare facilities throughout the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area, including the newest locations in nearby Waldorf and Charlotte Hall. 

MedStar Health Urgent Care Waldorf
3064 Waldorf Market Place
Waldorf, MD 20603

MedStar Health Urgent Care Waldorf hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.  You can call 301-932-5960 or visit for more information.

MedStar Health Urgent Care Charlotte Hall
37767 Market Drive
 Charlotte Hall, MD 20622

MedStar Health Urgent Care Charlotte Hall hours are 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.  Call 301-290-1499 or visit for more information. 

Aunt Bertha Pilot to Help Hospital Meet Community Needs


One of our most important directives at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center is to improve health in our community. From the Community Health Needs Assessment, we know that there are great disparities in health among those we serve, and that they are often linked to socioeconomic factors such as housing instability, unemployment, hunger, domestic violence and lack of transportation. Such factors can lead families to avoid preventive and routine care, instead using the Emergency Department (ED) only when an illness or condition becomes more severe.

To address health disparities that stem from socioeconomic factors, MedStar Health has chosen three sites to pilot a program designed to identify the most important problems interfering with patients’ health and connect the patients with existing aid programs. We were chosen as a pilot site, along with the MedStar Harbor Hospital Obstetrics Department and the MedStar Franklin Square Family Health Center.


The program has three parts: performing screenings of all patients who enter our Emergency Department, linking patients to appropriate community services, and conducting follow-up resource counseling to patients who screen positive for unmet needs. The pilot is largely based on use of an online tool called Aunt Bertha, a database that makes it easy to find need-based social service programs in a specific geographic area.

“It’s about meeting patients where they’re at,” says Octavia Peterson, who is our hospital’s health lead for the project, as well as community outreach coordinator for Cardiac Care Management. She says the goal is to not only give these patients the emergency care they need, but to try to help them with other needs that could be affecting their health.

When the pilot begins on July 1, Emergency Department nurses will start screening every ED patient. Patients who have an identified need for services will be referred to our case management department. There, a case manager will use Aunt Bertha to search for appropriate social program for each individual and will later follow up to make sure the patient has actually contacted those programs.

Key questions that MedStar Health hopes to answer with this pilot include what social needs face our patients, the feasibility of screening for social needs at the point of care, the effectiveness of Aunt Bertha in linking patients to services, and whether the program actually affects patient behaviors.

MedStar Southern Maryland Fights Back Against Diabetes

The Diabetes Self-Management Program celebrates 17 years of helping people live well with diabetes.

Sheila Gallagher, RD< CDE, and Susan Hicks, RN, MSN, CDE
Sheila Gallagher, RD, CDE, and Susan Hicks, RN, MSN, CDE

What causes diabetes? Can people with diabetes eat dessert? Is it true that healthy foods won’t raise blood sugar? When it comes to diabetes, there are a lot of myths out there. Yet knowing the facts about diabetes can save your life.

Here’s the truth: according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more Americans die each year from complications related to diabetes than they do from AIDS and breast cancer combined. The good news is that a person’s lifestyle choices, particularly healthy eating, regular exercise, and medication, can help manage diabetes effectively. The first step toward living well with diabetes is learning what you can do to help control it – and that’s where the hospital’s Diabetes Self-Management Program comes in.

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s Diabetes Self-Management Program has been helping people understand and manage diabetes since 1999. Now part of the MedStar Diabetes Institute, the ADA-certified program is staffed by certified diabetes educators and offers assessments, education, and support designed to empower people who have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, have never attended a self-management program, or are struggling to control their blood sugar levels.

“Denial is a big problem after the diagnosis,” said program coordinator Susan Hicks, RN. “Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in this country, and it’s associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, and other complications. Our program helps people understand treatment options and lifestyle changes that they can make to control it and reduce health risks.”

Participants attend a total of four classes to learn about diabetes self-care. The classes cover topics like monitoring blood glucose levels, establishing proper nutrition and exercise habits, taking medication, counting carbs, and reading food labels. Each class participant receives a personalized meal plan and follow-up.

The hospital also holds diabetes support group meetings on the fourth Thursday or every month from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Hospital Library. To learn more about the Diabetes Self-Management Program, or to sign up, call (301) 877-5560.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


Did you know MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center offers a free mental health support group? Organized through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a local leader in mental health education and resources, our support group is both for family members and caregivers of those with mental illness. 

According to NAMI, "We all experience emotional ups and downs from time to time caused by events in our lives. Mental health conditions go beyond these emotional reactions and become something longer lasting. They are medical conditions that cause changes in how we think and feel and in our mood. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing."  While a hot topic in the news recently,  it's crucial to remember mental health is just as important as an individual's physician health, and should be treated as such.

To learn more, check out some of NAMI's statistics below and visit their website for how to take a stand against stigmas surrounding mental health. 

Prevalence of Mental Illness

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.— 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent —experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.— 10 million, or 4.2 percent —experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4 percent) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13 percent.
  • 1.1 percent of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6 percent of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9 percent of adults in the U.S.— 16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1 percent of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5 percent —10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.

Social Stats

  • An estimated 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
  • 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
  • Only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.
  • Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9 percent received mental health services in the past year.
  • Just over half (50.6 percent) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatments, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

Consequences of Lack of Treatment

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17 Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Over one-third (37 percent) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., the third leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.
  • More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.



MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center
Mental Health Support Group

WHEN: First Tuesday of every month
TIME: 6:30 - 8 p.m.
LOCATION: Hospital Library (ground floor)
PHONE: 301-877-5700