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State seeks to raise awareness about free medical equipment program

Walkers and wheelchairs at the DME warehouse
Posted at 12:04 PM, Jun 14, 2024

BALTIMORE — Did you know the state of Maryland runs a program that gives away free medical equipment?

Most people likely have no idea that they can pick up free wheelchairs, scooters, shower chairs, walkers and more, through the state Department of Aging.

The equipment is all donated, and kept in a warehouse in Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County - and it's now very full.

Now, the state is launching an interdepartmental initiative that's partly aimed to get the word out about the Durable Medical Equipment Re-Use program. The initiative is called Maryland Equips, and it officially kicks off June 22.

Department of Aging spokesperson Colleen Doyle said:

Our warehouses are full and we cannot accept any more donations until we move stock into the homes of Marylanders who need it most. The need is there, but awareness is not.

Recipients can arrange to pick up the equipment at drop-off locations statewide (like The Arc in Towson, or Waxter Senior Center in downtown Baltimore), and everyone is eligible to pick it up; the only criteria is you must be a Maryland resident.

The program recently won a national environmental award as an innovative recycling program. The new 55,000-square-foot warehouse opened in 2021.

State leaders hope the Maryland Equips initiative can let more people know about both the medical equipment program and the state's High-Tech Assistive Technology Reuse Center, which provides donated magnifiers, speech communication devices, amplified telephones, eye-gaze systems, and similar items.

Doyle said hopefully the program can also eventually expand the number of locations where the equipment can be picked up. Right now, it's limited to a handful of sites statewide - one each in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford, Howard, Anne Arundel, Cecil, Queen Anne's, Washington and Dorchester counties, plus two in Montgomery County.

The June 22 launch of Maryland Equips coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Olmstead Act, which tackled discrimination against people with disabilities.

Department of Aging Secretary Carmel Roques also said in a statement that "unfortunately, not enough Marylanders are aware of" the state's "very robust set of medical equipment and supportive technology programs."

She said:

Our Maryland Equips collaboration is intended to consolidate resources so we can move more equipment into the homes of Marylanders who need support to live full lives in the community.

The DME program has been around for about three years, and the Department of Aging noted that launching in the middle of the COVID pandemic "surely made reaching individuals more difficult."

Also, applying for complex medical equipment like a power scooter or power wheelchair does require a physical or occupational therapist to fill out part of the application, mostly for liability reasons to make sure the recipient is capable of maneuvering the equipment safely.