Treatment center obtains preliminary approval from state

County plans $4 million facility for drug addicts on Springfield Hospital site

`We want input from everyone'

March 05, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The state has given preliminary approval to the county's plans to build a $4 million treatment center for drug addicts on the grounds of the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Carroll County officials are negotiating nominal leases, probably $1 a year, with two state agencies - the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections - for a 7-acre parcel at the southern end of the state hospital for the mentally ill. The land on Buttercup Road adjoins the state Central Laundry Facility, a minimum-security prison for men.

"We have had preliminary meetings and verbal concurrence from both agencies," Jolene Sullivan, director of Carroll's Department of Citizen Services, said yesterday.

Tom Rio, chief of the Carroll Bureau of Building Construction, said public safety officials have required a landscaped buffer and a few hundred yards between the treatment center and the prison. The site has more than enough land to fulfill those requests, he said.

The commissioners reviewed a survey of the site and a proposed access road yesterday and agreed with the plan. Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said he wanted to be certain that all surrounding property owners, including the town of Sykesville, were aware of the proposal.

"We want input from everyone," he said.

The state is circulating details of the proposal to several agencies, businesses and residents along the Route 32 corridor where the hospital is located. The Sykesville Town Council reviewed the proposal last week and unanimously agreed with the concept.

Sullivan has scheduled a March 30 public workshop that will bring together state and county officials as well as law enforcement personnel. Maps, cost figures and descriptions of services to be provided at the center will be available.

Information on security and property values will also be shared at the workshop, set for 7 p.m. at Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg.

"We want to provide the public with as much information as we can," Sullivan said.

The treatment center will also be near the state's new Public Safety Education and Training Center, where as many as 550 law enforcement officers will train each day.

"We will have police from all over the state," Sullivan said. "What better security could we have?"

Rio said that "even under optimum conditions, this center is at least a year away from completion."

Plans call for a 24-bed, 10,000-square-foot building that could possibly be expanded by 5,000 square feet. Most patients are expected to be 18 to 25 years old. Carroll residents would be given priority for the beds, but surrounding counties and Baltimore City could send patients to the center if vacancies arise.

"This has been a long time coming and we have taken everyone's concerns into consideration," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "It is also most needed."

Barbara Thomas, president of the county's Heroin Action Coalition, said the latest admission numbers from Carroll Hospital Center show 146 heroin overdoses through the first 10 months of last year and nine heroin-related deaths. Carroll County had 47 drug fatalities in 2002, 12 of those from heroin, she said.

"Once people see these numbers, they will see there is definitely a need for this treatment center," Thomas said. "We have to stop thinking that if this is not happening in our family that it is not happening in this area."

Thomas runs a monthly meeting for families dealing with addictions.

"Last month, we had quite a few high schoolers," she said. "It really was shocking because we have thought drug use was decreasing in that age group."

The county has been searching for a building site for the treatment center for more than three years.

Officials had rejected two locations at the hospital, including a vacant building that proved too costly to renovate. The county discarded the other site because its location along Route 32 was too close to residential neighborhoods.

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