Fitting venue located for youth rehab

Former hospital staff housing has adequate space, environment

It's `in amazingly good shape'

Long-term facility to treat drug addicts

Sykesville

July 01, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After several inspections, Carroll administrators have pronounced the Jones Building at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville suitable to house an urgently needed long-term drug rehabilitation program for county youth.

The five-story, all-brick Jones Building, constructed in 1948, needs new heating and air-conditioning systems, but is structurally sound, Ralph Green, county director of permits and inspections, said during a tour Friday.

"It has all new windows throughout, and the exterior brick is in fairly good condition. I think we could put this into shape in six to nine months of construction time," said Green, adding that the work would be within the county's $2 million budget for the project.

Carroll officials looked for nearly a year for a site for a 30-bed center, which could treat young addicts for as long as 18 months. The county has a serious drug abuse problem, health officials said, noting that three heroin deaths have been recorded in Carroll since April 1, two of them young adults.

Junction, an outpatient treatment center in Westminster, is treating 10 patients for heroin abuse. The state's attorney's office reports that 30 percent of the criminal cases prosecuted involve heroin use by 18- to 25-year olds.

"We don't have a long-term facility here, and I've seen parents on a waiting list for months," said Susan Day, a Westminster mother of a recovering addict. "We need rehab in this county badly and not for just a month. That's not long enough."

The Jones Building has emerged as the most practical and least costly option of several buildings considered on the hospital campus and at Henryton Hospital in Marriottsville.

While several abandoned Springfield buildings are in disrepair, the Jones Building "is in amazingly good shape," said Larry L. Leitch, director of Carroll County Health Department and head of the search committee that has reviewed and rejected several other locations in the last six months.

"We have to see how to modify this space and make it work," said Mike Whitson, bureau chief of facilities. "This really is a Cadillac compared to other buildings we have seen."

With 32,000 square feet, the T-shaped building, which most recently housed hospital staff, has spaces for offices, visiting areas and communal activities. Originally, it housed about 100 hospital employees in 88 single rooms and six apartments.

"There are no major structural problems," said Janice Bowen, the hospital's chief operating officer, who led the tour. "What you see is what you get. They built these buildings to stay."

The marble steps of the building, which is situated on the hospital's Main Street, lead to an imposing entrance. With its elaborate exterior moulding, Jones looks more like a stately college dormitory than a hospital building. Classrooms and living areas line its wide interior corridors.

The building's many windows allow natural light into the interior. Even its basement level is above ground and bright. It has two sets of concrete stairs and room to install an elevator. Renovations also would make the building accessible to the disabled.

"This building is solid," said Leitch. "I like the central location right in the main hospital area. We don't want to send kids a message that we are sticking them in the middle of nowhere."

About two years ago, a costly break in the main steam heat line to the building forced the hospital to close it. The lack of heat has caused the interior paint to buckle throughout the structure, but that is the only noticeable sign of neglect.

Carrying drawings of the interior and tape measures, the group walked along the halls, frequently clearing cobwebs in their way.

"This building is usable, but we have to know how to use the space," said Susan Doyle, program manager for the county addictions bureau.

She envisioned activity areas, a dining hall, staff offices and classrooms - much of which could be placed in existing space.

"The less we have to do structurally, the more comfortable we can make this building," Green said.

The initial renovation would probably involve three floors, each containing about 8,000 square feet. The county could adapt the remaining space as needed, Green said.

Carroll County would agree to accept the building from the state in its present condition and adapt it. Before any transfer, the state and county would hold a public hearing.

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