Proposals for private, for-profit methadone clinics have triggered protests in two Baltimore County communities -- and reignited a controversy about state licensing procedures.
State officials and clinic operators defend the proposals, but Randallstown residents say a clinic could hurt efforts to boost the Liberty Road corridor. In Loreley, near the Harford County line, residents fear that a clinic would bring crime to their mostly rural area.
"This kind of a program has a tendency to bring people in from all over the place. It's very destabilizing," Barry Schleifer, director of the Liberty Randallstown Coalition Inc., said of the clinic proposed for the Savoy Plaza Shopping Center, in the 8500 block of Liberty Road.
Larry Lee, president of the Bowerman-Loreley Beach Community Association, had similar worries. "This is a rural area," he said. "We have no police patrols. Homes are secluded."
Methadone clinics, which use a synthetic drug to block an addict's heroin craving, have been the focus of controversy before in Baltimore County.
In 1989, an uproar in Dundalk prompted a clinic to close after five days. Four years later, when several clinics were proposed, protests arose again and state officials promised to notify the county about such clinics in advance.
Today, the county has one methadone clinic, a publicly funded program in Timonium that serves six people from the Randallstown area, records show. A privately operated program, Jacob's Ladder, at 614 Old Edmondson Ave. in Catonsville, received a provisional permit from the state last month but has not opened.
County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville-Arbutus Democrat, considers the permit issued to Jacob's Ladder a violation of the promise by state officials. "I think it is, but I'm not surprised," he said.
Todd Rosendale, policy chief for the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, defended methadone as "the most successful kind of treatment for opiate-dependent persons that exists. The [Baltimore] area needs the treatment program."
There are 12 clinics in Maryland, including three in Baltimore, two in Anne Arundel County, one in Howard County and one in Carroll County, state officials said
Walter Smith, 46, a former drug counselor and administrator in Baltimore and Prince George's County, said clinic operators are caught in a bind because they must lease a site before obtaining state permits.
Smith's White Marsh Associates offices are equipped and ready to open in a small shopping center in the 11400 block of Pulaski Highway in Loreley, but residents' complaints led to the postponement of a zoning hearing. It has not been rescheduled.
"Everybody says we need treatment programs, but nobody wants them," he said, arguing that his proposed site is not close to schools or homes.
Dr. Leon Flemembaun, the applicant for the Liberty Road clinic, did not return phone calls over several days.
The Ruppersberger administration hopes to prevent problems by changing zoning laws to clarify where clinics would be welcome.
State Sen. Delores G. Kelley and County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, Democrats who represent Randallstown, have asked state health department officials not to issue permits for the two clinics.
"Take it to Stevenson or Greenspring Valley and help the residents there," Kelley said. "White, well-off suburbanites have the worst drug problems."
Kamenetz said the negative perception of such clinics makes the Randallstown location "inappropriate."
County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said, "A lot of it is perception, and perception is reality."
Pub Date: 7/01/97