Central Baltimore community advocates prevail over drug treatment industry to win unanimous vote for SB 199 in the MD Senate. House holds hearings on Tuesday, March 31. 
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Community advocates from Central Baltimore prevailed over the multi-billion drug treatment industry on Senate Bill 199 (sponsored by Senator Joan Carter Conway), to win a unanimous vote in the Maryland Senate in favor of the bill last week. SB 199 will require an assessment of local needs (by Zip Code) for new opioid (methadone) treatment clinics.  The bill's next stop is the House of Delegates, which will hold hearings on Tuesday, March 31, at 1PM. 
CBP SMSA Task Force Co-Chair Councilman Carl Stokes, who  testified in favor of SB 199, is a former long-standing board member of local clinic Man Alive, a fact which reflects the simultaneous pro-treatment / anti-saturation ethos of both the bill & the task force.

The aim of the bill is not to limit the total number of clinics being created, but to A) prevent the clusters that occur without regulation and B) make more clinics available in underserved areas.
Senate Bill 199 wins unanimous vote in Maryland Senate! House Hearings on Tuesday, March 31st.

For immediate release , March 30, 2015, The Walbert Building, Central Baltimore  

On February 18, when  the Saturation of Metropolitan Services (SMSA) Task Force of the Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP) went to Annapolis to testify before the Maryland State Senate Finance Committee in support of Senate Bill 199, sponsored by Senator Joan Carter Conway, things did not seem to be going its way. But slightly more than a month later it emerged victorious with a unanimous vote in the Maryland Senate.

On the date of the hearing,  task force members found themselves on the sole panel testifying in favor of SB 199, against a series of panels from the drug treatment industry, which included everyone from local treatment entrepreneurs to employees of highly esteemed academic institutions that offer drug treatment. 

The task force which includes one elected official, (Councilman Carl Stokes) is comprised mainly of residents, but also includes business people from Central Baltimore. It gets staffing assistance from the Central Baltimore Partnership, an organization dedicated to "the renaissance of Central Baltimore." Though it has long struggled to alleviate the saturation of  clinics in parts of Central Baltimore, the SMSA Task force had never before formed a panel to testify in favor of a Senate Bill. So, how did it come out on top?

"I don't think we came out on top, I think the facts came out on top" noted CBP SMSA Task Force Co-Chair, Alan Mlinarchik.  "This bill is meant to be a plus for patients getting treatment and a plus for communities that have been saturated with too many clinics.There was no credible way to challenge the intent of the bill. So in the end, it really came to down to a regulatory argument. The clinic representatives were saying, in effect, you are better off if we're not regulated. But the facts don't bear that out."

Indeed the facts compiled by  the SMSA task force (as contained in the presentations and testimony below) describe a disturbing portrait of a system gone awry  -- where recovering addicts have to travel far away from home (reducing their chances of successful treatment) and certain neighborhoods become dumping grounds for clinics where  dealers open up shop on the streets to prey on the large number of recovering addicts that converge to receive treatment.

But it may have been more than facts that  swayed the Senate. They cannot have failed to note the emotional testimony of Destiny Durso, who came forth with her own personal experience to explain the difficulty of being a recovering addict and walking through the open air drug markets that have sprung up on streets where large clinics cluster together. Her testimony asked: how many lives have been lost?  How many addicts didn’t recover because they didn’t get the chance? …Didn’t get the chance to get treatment without walking through an open-air drug market on the way....I would like to ask the Senators and the clinic representatives here -- are you serious about recovery? Are you serious about treatment? Because if you are, you won't allow this situation to continue.”      

How Saturation of Opioid (Methadone & Suboxone) Treatment Clinics – Impacts Patients and Communities: as Seen in Pockets of Central Baltimore
(see below or click here for PDF)



Testimony From The Senate Hearings on February 18.
The House Hearing Will be held March 31st

Excerpts from the written testimony of each of the CBP panelists is contained below. They are listed in the order in which their oral testimony was presented to the Senate Finance Committee. 

Carl Stokes Baltimore City Council – 12th District, CBP SMSA Task Force Co-chair
I served for over 20 years on the board of Man Alive, a methadone treatment center in my neighborhood. For many years, it stood alone treating about 1,000 patients weekly, then there were two, then three treating about 5,000 visits a week. Now there are four such clinics within a 6-8 block area. Eighty-three percent of the patients come from outside of the area, mostly using public transportation to get there. Currently, such clinics can set up with little regard of the impact on the community. As long as zoning allows a health office, the local jurisdiction or state is not allowed very much regulation. The bill we have is very straight forward. It gives the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene the much needed authority to determine the need for services in a particular geographic area in much the same way as the need for other heath services are determined. 

Alan Mlinarchik, Co-Chair, CBP SMSA Task Force Co-chair

Charles North, the small neighborhood where my business is located, has approximately 1050 residents  and a few dozen businesses.  On average each morning, 1100 patients come for treatment to three clinics (2 methadone, 1 suboxone) within 2 blocks of my building in zip code 21218.  According to DHMH data , 82% of the patients come from zip codes other than 21218.   Eight blocks away, a new clinic has just opened, planning to service 1200 new patients, openly soliciting clients...from other communities in both the City and adjacent counties.  Along with those patients, come dozens of buyers, sellers, and criminals, all looking to score in one way or another, and in large part, they score by compromising or victimizing clinic patients and others.  This is our definition of saturation.

In light of the current opioid addiction and overdose crisis in Maryland, we believe that an overall increase in treatment is needed, and believe that it will be enabled by changes in the health care funding environment, which has expanded coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment across the country.  The growth in treatment will also be driven by a trend towards more for-profit opioid treatment facilities, who have taken note of the increased federal funding available.  We believe, however, that these changes and the growth in treatment need to be accompanied and managed by legislation that ensures the distribution of treatment to the communities in need.


Robert Mara, representative of the Harwood Community Association, CBP SMSA Task Force Member

The Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD) is comprised of a 100 block area of north central Baltimore. For the first ten months of 2014, the forty eight (48) drug arrests (CDS) forwarded to district court were submitted to the CVCBD monthly crime and safety meeting. Of those arrests, forty four (44) were made within two blocks or less of either of the three existing opium treatment programs (OTP’s). In other words, over 90% of the drugs arrests in the CVCBD area originated near the OTP’s. What’s more, only 20% of those arrestees lived within the 21218 zip code. This is further proof that individuals are coming to an area of OTP saturation to buy and sell drugs.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden of Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health authored a study titled, ‘Not In My Backyard: A Comparative Analysis of Crime around Publically-funded Drug Treatment Centers, Liquor Stores, Convenience Stores and Corner Stores. Her study compared violent crime only and concluded that less violent crime occurs around drug treatment centers than around liquor stores and corner stores...We find her conclusion, that ‘drug treatment centers get an unfairly poor reputation that is not backed by data’ to be simply untrue. For her conclusion to be an honest assessment, her study should have been more exhaustive and looked at all crime, as we (SMSA) did. Our research covers all arrests in lower Charles Village from 2009 to 2014 and may be furnished to the committee upon request.


Linda Johnson, President of Greater Greenmount Community Association, SMSA Task Force Member

The saturation of these drug treatment facilities is my main concern as a community advocate. We see our surrounding neighborhoods, like Charles Village, cultivate a better quality of life, and we hope to follow in their footsteps.  We need to see a growth in our community, and the oversaturation of these facilities has weakened our neighborhood’s development. We want to welcome new residents and businesses to our community that are supportive of fostering a safer environment. The oversaturation of drug treatments has done the opposite, as we have seen a higher crime rate and more concerns over safety.

Passing this bill sends a strong message as it helps both the community and the patients who utilize drug treatment facilities: safety is enhanced in the community and individual’s access to facilities is improved.  Again this is not an issue against helping those with addictions, this is about the saturation of these facilities and the repercussions that arise from having too many in one area. It is imperative for future facilities to consider locations where demand is not met and individuals can easily access facilities that will move them forward in the recovery path of a drug addiction.


Jeanne Knight, SMSA Task Force Co-chair
Professionally, I am the past Deputy Director of the Disability Entitlement Advocacy Program (DEAP) and have 20 years of experience representing people in social security disability and supplemental security income cases before the social security administration – a vast majority of which were dual diagnosis (mental illness and drug addictions), meaning that some faced heroin addiction. I also have been personally impacted by heroin addiction as two of my cousins died from addiction related overdoses. I am a committed community leader that has personal and professional sensitivities to the treatment of addiction.

Patients are in dire need of getting professional help to address their addiction. They are in need of jobs so that they can support themselves and their families. They need treatment closer to their homes so that they spend only a small part of their day commuting back and forth from treatment centers. The 1998 University of Maryland study detailed loss of treatment –patients traveling more than a mile are about 33% more likely to fail in following treatment regimes. Our bill asks that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene look at the need for opioid maintenance programs in a location based upon the number of people in need of treatment, in addition to the facilities and staff capabilities that are already regulated.


Destiny Durso, of CBP speaking on behalf of herself, giving the perspective of addict in recovery

It’s not easy for recovering addicts like me, when you stick a lot of clinics together. Because that creates a big customer base for people who want to sell drugs. When you are a recovering addict, part of you wants to buy drugs, even while the other part of you wants to stop. People selling drugs know this. So they are going to set up shop at a location where thousands upon thousands of people are attempting recovery. 

When I walk though all this on Maryland Avenue, I wonder – could I have made it? Could I have been clean for all these years , if I had to walk through that every day when I was getting treatment? And the answer is -- no. I don’t think so. I don’t think I could have made it this far… So how many lives have been lost?  How many addicts didn’t recover because they didn’t get the chance? They didn’t get the chance to get treatment without walking through a drug market on the way. 

I would like to ask the Senators and the clinic representatives here -- are you serious about recovery? Are you serious about treatment? Because if you are, you won't allow this situation to continue.  You won't make people, who are trying to get their lives back together, walk through an open air drug market to get treatment. SB 199 is not a magic bullet that will fix all this. But it will help.”


The Saturation of Metropolitan Service Agencies (SMSA) Task Force concerns itself with the  high concentration of methadone clinics, drug treatment facilities, and other social service providers located in the Old Goucher, Charles North, and Charles Village neighborhoods. Its aim is to ameliorate the impact on quality of life caused by the current saturation, and to prevent further saturation.

Read more about our SMSA taskforce on this webpage:

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