Library to reopen as health center Neighborhood leaders say tenants will keep building safe, useful

June 11, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

The Loch Raven Library building, closed earlier this year by Baltimore County belt-tightening, will reopen in three weeks as a community health center and as the headquarters for county child sex abuse investigations.

Starting July 1, the building will house the Towson Health Center and the Child Advocacy Center. County officials say they will save taxpayers $90,000 in annual lease payments by moving the two agencies from rented quarters elsewhere in Towson.

The county is spending $30,000 to get the building ready for its new occupants and to improve access to the handicapped. But by closing the library, the county has saved the $1 million voters had approved for library expansion and renovation.

Neighborhood leaders, who were angered by the library's closing in February but powerless to stop it, now say they are pleased.

"We were concerned that if it stayed empty, there would be vandalism," said Dale E. Livingston, president of the Knettishall Improvement Association.

Mary Poehlman, president of the Hillendale Improvement Association, said, "What we really wanted was for them not to sell the building, because we had hope that in the future they would possibly open the library again. If the building were sold, that would be gone forever."

As for the two agencies that are moving in, she said, "I can't see anything wrong with either one."

The Towson Health Center now pays $48,000 rent each year for space in a shopping center on Orchard Tree Lane, off Joppa Road near Loch Raven Boulevard.

Residents made more than 9,000 visits to the Towson Health Center in fiscal 1992, mostly by appointment. Some clinics are held in the evening, but not on weekends.

Wayne Skinner, president of the Towson-Loch Raven Community Council, said neighbors welcome evening hours. "The later the hours, the safer the building is," he said. "I think it's going to work out very well."

Services include child immunization, family planning, prenatal and well-baby clinics, and testing for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners staff the facility, with a doctor on call.

Karen Stott, community relations director for the county health department, said some services are restricted to county residents, but tests for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV are open to city residents as well. Most clients receive medical assistance.

"It's primarily for younger families," she said. "It doesn't take the place of a family doctor. We have ways to put people in touch with primary care, but this is not a clinic where people stop because they have the flu or a cut."

The other agency moving to Loch Raven, the Child Advocacy Center, is currently housed in the Investment Building in central Towson at a cost of $42,000 a year in rent.

The center investigates all complaints of sexual child abuse in the county. It is staffed by five police detectives, seven social workers, their supervisors and a receptionist. A doctor and an assistant state's attorney also serve the center as needed.

"It is kind of a child-friendly atmosphere," said Marci Kennai, community relations coordinator for the Department of Social Services.

"They come to one place, where . . . police and social workers can interview them together.

It's certainly less traumatic for children who have been victims of child abuse."

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