New drug treatment provider proposed

Balto. Co. plans to hire Pa. company to replace Right Turn of Maryland

April 22, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County plans to end its decade-old partnership with a well-regarded drug treatment program and give a new company the contract to provide services for nonviolent drug offenders.

If the County Council approves the move, Gaudenzia Inc., which runs treatment programs in Northwest Baltimore, will take over from Right Turn of Maryland on July 1, the county executive's office announced.

Some in the justice system who have long relied on Right Turn said they are wary about the shift and wonder why the county would uproot a program they say has long proved successful. The proposed changes will likely go beyond management - Gaudenzia has proposed overhauling the method used for treating drug addicts, those familiar with the contract said.

"It's just disappointing," said T. Wray McCurdy, a lawyer who said many of his clients have benefited from Right Turn. "To adopt a whole 'nother treatment model? We're going to have to start all over."

But county officials say Gaudenzia, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization, will provide the best treatment for the $750,000 grant-funded contract. It will also charge patients who pay for services 22 percent less than Right Turn did, county officials said.

"We certainly want to say that Right Turn provided outstanding service," said county spokeswoman Tori Leonard. "But this was a competitive process, and Gaudenzia offered a stronger clinical proposal that represented the best value to Baltimore County."

County and Gaudenzia officials said they are committed to a smooth takeover.

"We have a very good track record of working with the court system," said Gale Saler, the director of Gaudenzia Maryland. "Gaudenzia has extensive experience with the criminal justice population. We're in several prisons, we run community programs, and I think that was one of the factors the county looked at as favorable."

County lawyers and judges have long relied on Right Turn as an alternative to jail for some drug offenders. For the past 10 years, it has served nearly 100 addicts a day in its 28-day inpatient program at the Rosewood Center campus in Owings Mills, and hundreds of others in once-a-week aftercare.

But with Right Turn's decade-old contract expiring in June, county officials started this year to ask for new proposals. Right Turn, Gaudenzia, and one other vendor submitted bids to take over operations at Rosewood. County officials said Gaudenzia's treatment model was the best fit.

"It certainly took us by surprise," said Phillip Keller, the attorney and spokesman for Right Turn. He declined to comment further.

Gaudenzia uses a substance abuse treatment model that tries to change the way people think and behave, county officials said. It also offers family therapy, vocational counseling and other services.

Gaudenzia will keep patients 60 to 120 days, according to the contract.

Right Turn, which county officials said had more of an education-based program, held most people referred by courts for 28 days. It also had an aftercare system.

A number lawyers and judges reached this week said they did not know much about Gaudenzia.

"But it's obviously something that needs watching because Right Turn did serve so many of our clients with substance abuse problems so well," said Donald E. Zaremba, Baltimore County's deputy district public defender.

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