Treatment centers to take credit cards

November 23, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

With credit cards being used to pay for everything from dental bills to groceries, Baltimore County officials figure that the cards can just as easily pay for drug and alcohol counseling.

Starting Jan. 1, people receiving outpatient counseling at one of Baltimore County's five treatment centers can pay their bill with Visa or MasterCard, said Michael M. Gimbel, director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse.

A survey of 690 clients now in counseling showed that nearly 50 percent would use a credit card to pay for the sessions, Mr. Gimbel said. He hopes that allowing credit card payment will enable his agency to collect more money and cut down on the number of unpaid bills. Last year ended with 408 clients owing the agency $51,665.

Using credit cards also will reduce paperwork for staff and cut down on the amount of cash they handle.

The office's centers, located in Lansdowne, Randallstown, Cockeysville, Rosedale and Dundalk, mostly provide counseling to people referred from court on drunken-driving convictions, though outpatient counseling also is provided for people with drug problems. Fees range up to $82 per weekly session, though some clients pay nothing. The average fee is $15, Mr. Gimbel said.

The county has agreed to operate the credit card program through First National Bank at a cost of 5.6 percent per transaction. The county has set an annual limit of $35,000 in credit card payments. Mr. Gimbel said that the client's privacy will be protected because receipts will only say the money was used for county services. The program will be evaluated after six months.

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