The University of Maryland’s Center for Health Equity, along with several other organizations, have partnered to bring a free health clinic and wellness center to Temple Hills in Prince George’s County.

The Catholic Charities Susan D. Mona Center will offer primary care, as well as dental care, legal and immigration services and a wellness facility.

“To actually have the chance to build something from the ground up to meet the health needs of our most vulnerable residents and neighbors … you wouldn’t build your grandfather’s clinic,” said Stephen Thomas, the Maryland Center for Health Equity director and a professor in this university’s public health school.

After Thomas helped orchestrate a two-day free dental clinic in Xfinity Center in 2014 that served more than 1,200 people, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington approached him with the idea to bring free health care services to a former restaurant building in Temple Hills that was donated to the Archdiocese.

Together with the Doctor’s Community Hospital, the organizations have worked to design and begin construction on the center. They plan to include a teaching kitchen, a studio, a healing garden, a space for family science faculty to conduct counseling and a space for kinesiology faculty to do body composition and physical activity prescriptions, Thomas said.

The county approved plans for the construction of the site last week, at 5859 Allentown Way in Temple Hills, and Thomas said he expects the center to be open within 18 months.

“We believe that in this facility, we will be able to put in one place an example of the health, emotion and disease prevention facility of the future,” he said.

Students are also playing a role in the center’s development. This fall, 20 students enrolled in HLSA484: Redesigning Health Care: Developing a Clinic to Meet Community Needs, the public health school’s first fearless ideas course. Throughout the semester, the students in the class have been conducting interviews with members of the community and brainstorming ideas for the clinic, said Dylan Roby, one of the class’ professors.

“We are usually engaged in fast moving, interactive activities,” he said. “We let the students work in groups doing brainstorming, defining problems … coming up with ideas, prototyping them, testing them and then going back to make adjustments.”

The class will continue next semester, Thomas said.

The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington plans to fund the dental clinic at the health center and offer additional programs that benefit community members. Other funding will come from the state of Maryland, and health professionals will be provided by the Doctor’s Community Hospital and this university.

“Workshops could include tenant-landlord disputes, wills and estates, domestic violence matters, immigration, expungement and others,” wrote Joseph Dempsey, director of stewardship at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese in Washington, in a 2015 Maryland Senate bill.

The partnership is the ultimate collaboration between local organizations along with schools and departments at this university, Thomas said.

“It is my hope that these very people who have lost all hope in the system will have hope that those of us here at the University of Maryland who control a little bit of the system can make their lives better,” he said.