Sexual-disorders clinic is severed from Hopkins Often-criticized director takes his operation private

July 03, 1992|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

The director of a clinic for pedophiles, rapists and other sexual deviants has moved his outpatient center from Johns Hopkins Hospital to a private office -- ending a 12-year relationship during which he was repeatedly criticized by child advocacy groups.

Dr. Fred Berlin said yesterday that he will run the clinic strictly as a private operation but continue to admit to Johns Hopkins Hospital patients who need around-the-clock surveillance and intensive therapy. He will continue to hold an associate professorship in psychiatry on the Johns Hopkins faculty, although his teaching status will change from full time to part time.

The independent clinic, in the 100 block of E. Biddle St., is called the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma.

Dr. Berlin praised the hospital leadership for supporting him through many difficult times.

"I understand they have many priorities, and perhaps this could become a distraction that they could not justify," he said. "I'm not saying the good will isn't there. I just didn't want to have to depend on it."

He said that "negative publicity" had placed some strain on the clinic's relationship with the institution.

"There was some talk that if the negative publicity continued, it wasnot clear that the institution would continue its support," Dr. Berlin said. He said that the move to a private facility was done by "mutual agreement," and that he was not under pressure to leave.

Dr. Paul McHugh, chairman of the psychiatry department, said in a prepared statement that "the department and Dr. Berlin anticipate continuing collaboration."

The clinic, set up in 1980, has maintained a caseload of 200 patients for the last few years. Many of the patients have been convicted criminals given the opportunity to avoid incarceration by entering therapy. Others have been voluntary patients fearing apprehension if their deviant behavior were to continue.

Over the years, Dr. Berlin earned the scorn of many with his position that therapists specializing in the treatment of pedophiles -- child molesters -- should not have to report sexual offenses to law enforcement authorities. He said the threat of criminal prosecution kept many offenders from seeking help.

He won an exemption from the state's mandatory reporting law, but it was repealed after one year in July 1, 1989. Child advocates persuaded lawmakers that the "loophole" allowed offenders to traumatize new victims while escaping punishment.

Child advocates have frequently pointed to patients and former patients who returned to deviant behavior after brief periods of good behavior. Dr. Berlin said the focus on failures has distorted his record -- that his outpatients commit new crimes at a far lower rate than do released prison inmates. In one study, he said, the recidivism rate of 600 patients over a five-year period was 5 percent. He said about 40 percent of inmates released from Maryland's general prison population are convicted of new felonies.

Dr. Berlin's patients include pedophiles, rapists, exhibitionists sadomasochists, voyeurs and people who place obscene telephone calls. Besides offering individual and group therapy, he has treated many of the male patients with Depo-Provera, a drug that lowers the sex drive.

A Johns Hopkins Hospital spokeswoman said the institution's formal relationship with the clinic ended Wednesday. Hopkins no longer treats sex offenders on an outpatient basis, she said, but will continue to accept them as hospital patients.

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