Panel OKs bill for drug rehab center approval

September 09, 2005|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

For the second straight year, the city Planning Commission approved legislation that would allow drug treatment programs to open without public approval, sending the proposal on to the City Council, where it stalled last fall.

The legislation approved yesterday would allow outpatient drug treatment programs, including methadone clinics, to open anywhere that doctors' or dentists' offices are allowed. Under the city's current rules, treatment providers wanting to open a new program must get a council member to sponsor a bill on their behalf, which is often difficult, since council members are wary of their constituents opposing new programs.

Proponents of the legislation say it is needed to protect the city against lawsuits from treatment providers, because recent court rulings have found that outpatient drug treatment programs cannot be held to regulations any different than those used for other medical offices.

The legislation, which is backed by Mayor Martin O'Malley, stalled in the City Council last year after a committee chairwoman, Lois A. Garey, refused to hold a hearing, saying there was community opposition. Garey is no longer on the council.

Planning commissioners approved the bill unanimously yesterday after hearing testimony from recovering addicts. One of them, Rasheida Hopewell, told the council that she had done well in a program in West Baltimore, but wished there was a program closer to her Park Heights home.

"There are a lot of people that need [treatment]," she said.

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