Plans to start addict center move quickly

Proposed facility for heroin abusers has official backing

Other services pondered

Leader urges speed in pursuit of title to Henryton center

January 23, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials are moving quickly toward their goal of creating a long-term residential drug treatment center for heroin addicts, focusing their efforts on the vacant Henryton Hospital Center in Marriottsville.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier met yesterday with members of Carroll's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, county health officials, drug treatment workers, staff from the state's attorney's office and a handful of community activists to continue discussions about a county center that would serve young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

In addition to providing up to a year and a half of drug treatment for 24 patients at a time, the proposed center would offer job training, counseling services and relapse prevention instruction.

At Dell's urging, the group studying options for the center will meet with staff of the Maryland Department of General Services in about two weeks - sooner than officials first suggested - to begin the paperwork required to transfer the Henryton site from the state's rolls of surplus properties to the county.

Once the state hospital for African-American tuberculosis patients, the cluster of buildings has been vacant for more than 15 years. Many of the structures, including the two buildings under consideration for the residential treatment center, have fallen into disrepair. Renovating the structures for the heroin treatment program would cost about $500,000, according to estimates quoted by Sen. Larry E. Haines, the Republican leader of Carroll's legislative delegation.

"It would be a monumental undertaking," Haines said of accepting the entire 50-acre site in Carroll County near the Carroll-Howard border. "But I think it's a resource that the county should consider taking the title to, to provide a good mix of programs useful for all of our citizens."

In addition to the long-term treatment center, Haines and others at yesterday's discussion floated the possibility of using other buildings on the sprawling site for a hospice, a youth center and a facility to house detainees for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

When the county proposed a similar program about three years ago, nearby residents in Carroll and Howard counties loudly protested.

"People were saying there wasn't a problem" with heroin, said Sue Doyle, the county's program manager of addiction and treatment services. "Now, with all the deaths and the younger kids who have died of overdoses, we're in a different place now. The community support is there for this program."

The number of heroin users admitted to treatment centers in Carroll jumped from about 100 in 1994 to more than 400 in 1998, the last year for which statistics are available. During the past four years, 15 people have died in Carroll County of heroin overdoses.

"There's an awareness today that [heroin addiction] doesn't just affect the lower socioeconomic segment of our county," Doyle said. "It's affecting everyone in the community. ... Our kids are using in high school, they're getting arrested and they're having serious medical problems."

The three-member state Board of Public Works - made up of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon - would need to sign off on the transfer of the Henryton site.

Carroll Health Department Director Larry L. Leitch estimated that it would take at least three months to finish preparations for the board to vote on the transfer.

If the transfer is approved, he said, it would take about six months to get renovations under way, and six months to a year to ready the facility for the treatment center.

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