Mayor reintroduces bills to ease drug treatment center placement

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July 12, 2005|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley introduced two bills yesterday to the City Council that would take a second crack at making it easier for drug treatment programs to open in Baltimore without legislative oversight.

O'Malley sponsored the bills last year, but they were held up in committee by council members under pressure from residents opposed to the idea.

Supporters say the two bills simplify an approval process that has kept drug-treatment facilities from opening and kept them concentrated in neighborhoods without the sway to fight them. Planning Director Otis Rolley III told the council yesterday the city must approve the bills to avoid lawsuits by treatment providers who say current regulations violate federal law by discriminating against recovering addicts.

Councilman Robert W. Curran said he backs the administration's effort to support these centers, which he says are needed.

But several council members at yesterday's meeting said the bills would prevent community groups from getting advance notice when such facilities - including group homes, nursing homes and homeless shelters - are opening in their neighborhoods. Some said that hurts poorer neighborhoods, which already bear a greater share of such facilities than more expensive parts of the city.

"I want some protections in place," said Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young. "I want them to be spread all over. They locate these facilities where they get the least resistance."

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke stopped in front of Rolley as she left yesterday and succinctly expressed her resistance: "No."

Rolley responded: "We'll get sued."

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