New look for treatment center Glenwood Life moves back in after renovation

December 17, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

For the past few years, addicts getting methadone and counseling at Glenwood Life Center in Govans battled the elements as well as heroin and other drugs.

The roof leaked. Wind blew through the windows. Toilets overflowed. Private talks wafted through thin walls. A radio turned on near a space heater could cause a blackout.

"It was nice and cool in the winter and nice and hot -- 95 degrees -- in the summer," said Frank Satterfield, executive director.

Finally, it's all changed. After five years of planning, the staff and 308 clients of one of the oldest methadone centers in Baltimore, begun in 1971, have just moved into their $1.1 million renovated home at 516 Glenwood Ave.

"The last few years, we were just one step up from a shooting gallery," said Satterfield, 49, of Randallstown. "It was so disrespectful of clients. Now we can offer a doctor's office. It improves the quality of our service and the clients' self-respect and sense of hope."

The building's red-brick exterior was retained, but the interior was demolished last spring and replaced while the program went on in nearby trailers. Counseling rooms have carpeting and framed prints on the walls. Heat and air conditioning systems are functioning, as are plumbing, lighting, doors and windows.

"Glenwood has restored thousands of lives in 27 years," said Todd Rosendale, a leading state drug official. "It's nice to know their building is restored. It's a remarkable accomplishment that while the conditions were horrendous, they retained their staff all those years," he said.

"Glenwood has a reputation for going the extra mile. They don't give up on their clients."

Rosendale, of the state Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, is chief of policy and program development

for alcohol and drug abuse and also serves as the federally designated "state methadone authority."

He has been involved in Maryland in one way or another since the 1960s in "medication-assisted treatment," a term he prefers to "methadone treatment" because, as he notes, "Methadone is only 5 percent of the treatment."

He said 33 such programs exist in the state, 19 of them funded by federal and state money. They are all filled.

In fiscal year 1998, 9,757 patients were treated in these public and private facilities, up slightly from the previous year. The recovering addicts fill the 3,746 statewide slots on a rotating basis.

"Another 22,000 people, of which 15,000 live in Baltimore City, would like to get in but can't because there's no room," Rosendale said.

Methadone is a synthetic drug used with counseling and other forms of treatment to wean addicts from heroin. Administered orally, it eliminates the craving for narcotics and evens out the highs and lows typically caused by heroin and other narcotics.

Some detractors say the treatment merely substitutes one drug for another.

Rosendale and Satterfield noted that methadone helps thousands of people in Maryland live relatively normal lives. "It is taking a medicine for a disease," Rosendale says.

Up the street, at Glenwood Avenue and York Road, the clinic runs a full health center for low-income people, including some recovering addicts.

Clients at the methadone clinic must abide by its rules: fees for services, a 90-day probation period, mandatory counseling, daily doses of methadone on the premises, the privilege of "take-home" doses for six days with good behavior, no narcotics or alcohol.

To executive director Satterfield, the revitalized clinic just off the 5200 block of York Road is a reminder to the public that narcotics addiction is near the surface of everyday life in Baltimore, home to an estimated 55,000 addicts.

"The drug war is not working," Satterfield said. "We won't arrest our way out or interdict our way out. If we closed all the borders tight, we'd make new synthetic narcotics and they'd be on the market in one month."

Why do people want to escape reality? he asked. "It will take a concerted effort to find alternatives to substance abuse" -- in many cases, jobs, education, adequate housing and health care.

Rosendale said that since 1992, Baltimore has had the highest JTC rate of heroin use per capita of any U.S. city. He sees an alarming rise in the last three years because the purity of heroin has risen to 50 or 60 percent, high enough for the drug to be snorted, reducing the risks inherent in injecting the drug. Snorting seems to be a factor in the expansion of heroin use to Maryland's suburbs and rural areas.

Yvonne M. Higgins, physician assistant at Glenwood, said more clinics are needed. Her clients include people with HIV, AIDS, syphilis and TB. Prospective clients can wait up to six months to get into Glenwood.

Clinics are expensive -- qualified staffers willing to work for low wages are hard to find. But to Rosendale, the main barrier is not money but "NIMBY" -- the "not in my back yard syndrome."

Satterfield, who has been at Glenwood since 1972, said he pays close attention to the feelings of Govans residents, so there has been only a slight rise in the clinic's population.

Gloria King, vice president of the Woodbourne-McCabe Improvement Association, who lives down the street, considers Glenwood a good neighbor.

"They do a marvelous job, always ready to help people in the community," she said. "Many clients come from out of the community. Glenwood keeps them in line. They don't linger or cause trouble here."

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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