Grant renewal unlikely Treatment center was investigated earlier in year

September 29, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

A Baltimore drug-treatment program that was investigated for financial improprieties earlier this year apparently will be denied renewal of a federal grant.

The Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, a quasi-public organization, has been operating for three years under a $13 million grant from the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, under a program called Target Cities.

But Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore health commissioner, says the city has been notified informally that its application for another $3.4 million has been denied. He said he had no official indication that the investigation had hurt Baltimore's chances for the new funds.

For several months last year and early this year, the state's attorney investigated the program after the health agency received a complaint that funds were being misused.

Yesterday, State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms would not discuss the matter except to say, "We were contacted by the Health Department in connection with this matter. We assisted in a review after an allegation that did not result in charges against an individual or individuals. That's the extent of what I can say."

Another source said investigators found no criminal wrongdoing but questioned accounting practices.

The program's executive director, Jo DeWeese, was fired June 1. Dr. Beilenson would not comment on why she was removed. Efforts to reach Ms. DeWeese yesterday were unsuccessful. The new executive director, Tom Davis, is on loan from the health department.

Three years ago, Baltimore was among eight cities that won Target Cities grants to use for drug treatment support services.

The funds were used to begin a computerized referral system that can quickly match addicts who seek help with appropriate drug treatment programs. The program also trained medical staff in the diagnosis and treatment of addiction and paid for the costs of doctors to offer basic medical care at drug treatment centers, Dr. Beilenson said.

All the cities that won the original Target Cities grants were invited to compete for two-year renewals, according to Richard Sampson, director of the state health department's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. The federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment will announce the winners later this week.

Though Baltimore's bid for more funds apparently has been rejected, the state believes the city will be allowed to use $4.6 million unspent from the original three-year grant of $13 million, Mr. Sampson said. Baltimore informally has been notified it can use $2.9 million for the next year, he added.

"The program will continue," Dr. Beilenson said. "After five years, the grant would expire anyway and we'd have to find other support for it."

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