Treatment works,Bush adviser told Drug treatment center in city shows success.

February 07, 1992|By Bruce Reid

Bob Martinez, President Bush's top anti-drug policy adviser, came to Baltimore today to visit an unconventional addiction-treatment center -- one for women only -- and he apparently liked what he saw.

The Bush administration's anti-drug policy has been criticized consistently as being heavy on law enforcement and light on treatment and prevention. More than 60 percent of the federal anti-drug budget, proposed for next year at $12.7 billion, would go for law enforcement.

But officials at the Comprehensive Women's Center in the 400 block of N. Washington St., an affiliate of Johns Hopkins &L Hospital, say they are making significant inroads in treatment.

Mr. Martinez, a former Florida governor, came to the center to talk with its staff and the women who are treated there.

Mr. Martinez also visited Benjamin Franklin Middle School in South Baltimore to learn about the school's "Magic Me" program, which seeks to prevent students from dropping out of school, abusing drugs and otherwise running afoul of the law.

In the program, students visit elderly residents of Harbour Inn Convalescent Center, a nearby nursing home, to learn how to help other people as well as themselves.

The Comprehensive Women's Center has been operating its outpatient addiction-treatment program since September 1990. The program treats mostly local women who are chronic drug and alcohol abusers.

It's different from residential treatment programs, center officials say. It doesn't shelter addicts for a time, then expect them to stay clean once they return home.

"There's some evidence that it's a particularly good program for women," said the center's director, Dr. Betsy McCaul, "because it doesn't take them out of the home."

She said it was a "unique model of care" that recognizes the needs of women, many of whom have children to care for. The program also seeks to overcome the low self-esteem of women addicts, she said.

Mr. Martinez, after hearing about the program from a dozen women in treatment, said: "It's clear that you believe something good is happening here. I believe there is."

Several told Mr. Martinez that male-dominated, traditional treatment didn't work for them.

"Before coming to a program like this, I didn't know there was a better way of life," said a women named Sondra. "Coming here, I learned how to love unconditionally. I found a new way of life," she said.

Cheryl, another woman in treatment at the center, started using drugs when she was 13. She stopped at age 34, 10 months ago.

"The women in here, I call them my family," she told Mr. Martinez.

She was receiving methadone to help kick her heroin habit, but she said she stopped. "I wanted to free my body of all drugs."

Linda Bartlett, who manages the center's treatment programs, said community-based treatment was critical. The center's concept should be used in treating men and children, too, she said.

"We're going to have to treat these communities," she said.

Mr. Martinez said the Bush administration was trying to put tens of millions more into expanding treatment opportunities.

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