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Foundation brings city $25 million Philanthropist Soros to promote education, jobs, drug treatment

Schmoke highly praised

Baltimore branch would be first to focus on a single town

August 03, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mark Matthews contributed to this article.

Morris' first challenge as director of the institute: finding an office.

"We've had several offers but haven't decided on a location yet," Morris said. "We probably won't be up and running until September, and then we'll have to go through an intense planning period of at least six months."

Soros said Friday that the institute's Baltimore office will focus on three key elements: education, job creation and drug treatment.

"We plan to take a pluralistic approach," said Soros. These elements, he emphasized, "need to be reinforced at the same time."

Soros is already supporting Schmoke's efforts to provide drug treatment on demand. He has committed $2 million to a city program that would provide the appropriate level of care to drug addicts seeking medical attention.

"He certainly has supported what the mayor and I have attempted to do," said the city health commissioner, Dr. Peter Beilenson, who estimates that there are about 55,000 drug addicts in the city. State and federal officials have contributed $14.7 million to the treatment program. An additional $13 million has come from city sources and private contributors.

"This is a great opportunity for Baltimore," Beilenson said. "Not only because of [Soros'] commitment to our drug treatment initiative, but because he is also committed to addressing related issues, such as the need for microenterprises and educational opportunities."

But precisely how the institute will advance those goals is not yet clear.

"This is a town where there's a lot of groups that don't always work together," Morris said. "One of Mr. Soros' primary concerns is to promote an open society -- one in which people in the community participate in society and affect public policy. So one of our challenges will be to craft programs in a way that will enable groups to work together in ways that they had not been able to in the past."

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Baltimore and the state of Maryland," said Peter Berns, president of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations. "It is going to provide a much-needed infusion of resources as well as intellectual energy into solving the city's problems."

Pub Date: 8/03/97

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