As Baltimore continues to try to re-shape itself, an increase in social-service businesses, particularly methadone clinics, have started to pop up in a handful of neighborhoods, to the dismay of neighbors. While everyone agrees that drug treatment facilities are sorely needed in Baltimore City, particularly as the poverty rate climbs, it’s unfair to burden a tiny selection of neighborhoods with the majority of clinics and treatment centers.
The folks from the Central Baltimore Partnership sent out an email that resonated with me, since I live in Pigtown (home of one of the city’s largest treatment centers, Baltimore Behavioral health) and I also often work in Central Baltimore. I think it’s important to realize these aren’t a bunch of NIMBY’s — in fact, I think they have some valid points, and other neighborhoods should be open to the idea of treating their addicts closer to home. I definitely agree the burden should be spread around the city, and not concentrated in a small handful of communities, particularly communities that are walking a fine line between healthy and not.
This is their email (reprinted with permission, slightly edited for clarity), along with a petition that I encourage you to sign if you live in Central Baltimore:
Central Baltimore Partnership has started the petition “Joshua Sharfstein: Recognize Clinic Saturation (concentration) is Harmful For Patients – Consider Location Before Citing New Clinics.” and need your help to get it off the ground.
Here’s why the petition is important:
- Too many clinics concentrated in one geographic area has negative repercussions for patients and for the neighborhoods surrounding the concentration of clinics.
- We would like to see the problem addressed with smaller, localized treatment centers that increase the opportunity for patient recovery, decrease the stigmatization of treatment, and reduce that unhealthy and often dangerous ecosystem that develops around the mega-clinics.
We have become increasingly concerned with the unintended consequences of placing too many treatment facilities and treatment slots servicing too many patients in the same area. We appreciate that many clinic operators are doing critically important work addressing very real substance abuse issues in the city of Baltimore, but we believe that the concentration has enabled and even caused the development of an ecosystem of street drug use, dealers, and predators in the neighborhood that is bad for the patients and bad for the community.
We have analyzed data from the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and see that in excess of 80% of the patients being served at methadone clinics in zip code 21218 come from other zip codes – from the standpoint of demand vs. supply, we are over-served, and we are not the only neighborhood that has fallen into this trap.
Conversely, the data shows that there are major sections of Baltimore City (and Baltimore County) that are underserved, with many patients but few or no neighborhood treatment options. We would like to see the problem addressed with smaller, localized treatment centers that increase the opportunity for patient recovery, decrease the stigmatization of treatment, and reduce that unhealthy and often dangerous ecosystem that develops around the mega-clinics.
We do not blame the patients – in fact, our concern and compassion for those seeking substance abuse treatment guides us in our decisions and recommendations just as much as our concern for the residents and business that call Central Baltimore their home. We believe that a community can be a lifeboat for those in need of substance abuse treatment, but that the clinics in Central Baltimore have packed too many people in a single boat, jeopardizing all.