Group sues state, seeks berth for vessel Project Life to use ship as a treatment center for women drug abusers

June 10, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The group that owns the former Navy hospital ship Sanctuary sued the state yesterday over its failure to find a permanent Baltimore berth where the ship can be used to help women drug abusers.

Project Life filed the suit in Baltimore Circuit Court against Gov. .. Parris N. Glendening and other state officials. It charged the state was violating federal laws by refusing to accommodate the ship at a state pier.

The nonprofit organization plans a residential program for women consisting of "addiction intervention" and "lifestyle education."

"All we're asking is reasonable accommodation," said Andrew D. Levy, attorney for Project Life. He said recovering substance abusers are protected from discrimination by the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Since October 1996, the 14,400-ton, 522-foot decommissioned ship has been at Pier 6, North Locust Point Marine Terminal. The group said it unsuccessfully requested a long-term lease agreement at the site.

Jack Cahalan, public affairs director for the Transportation Department, said the state supported the basic program and objectives of the Sanctuary. "We certainly regret that Project Life opted to file suit. We have been working with them in good faith, we are still trying to make it work, and we thought that real headway was being made.

"The problem is not as simple as parking a boat. There's a long list of technical concerns. Everything from a complete engineering study by Project Life to ensure the integrity of the berth and its ability to support the project to ample parking, safe public access by a civilian population in a heavy industrial site and security for the Sanctuary and its clients."

He said the secretaries of health and transportation would soon discuss safe public access and that the Port Land Use Development Zone Advisory Council will analyze land use.

The shipboard project aims to serve 50 women initially, and eventually 300 at a time. The clients would live 30 days on board and be trained for lives without drug abuse. Their progress would be followed for 18 months. Before coming aboard, the women must have undergone detoxification.

"After spending four years trying to find a berth and $1 million in public and private funds to convert the ship and begin, we feel it won't happen unless we file suit," Levy said yesterday.

Also listed as "class action" plaintiffs acting in their own behalf and for all similar women are three Marylanders: Angela Marie Adams and Vanessa Trudy Barlow, both of Baltimore, and Barbara Nevette Williams, an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women.

The three were described as unable to find chemical addiction XTC treatment in a residential program.

Also named as defendants are the Maryland Department of Transportation and its secretary, David L. Winstead; the

Maryland Port Administration and its executive director, Tay Yoshitani; the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration; and the advisory council.

The suit said facilities were badly needed. "There are approximately 300,000 women in Maryland who are chemically dependent, yet there are only 332 female-specific inpatient beds in substance abuse programs in Maryland," it said.

Project Life said it has received $750,000 in bonds approved by the General Assembly and $50,000 in a state grant to run the program. The chairman of Project Life's board is Dr. Stanley R. Platman, chairman of the physician rehabilitation committee of the state medical society.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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