Baltimore Pastor Opens Methadone Clinic

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One Baltimore City pastor is opening an “open access” methadone clinic to treat heroin addicts within minutes.  Gigi Barnett explains he has yet to receive approval from the state.

Rev. Milton Williams’ church is in the heart of east Baltimore.  So is his methadone clinic, called “Turning Point.” 

On July 5, Williams plans to bring a controversial “open access” treatment method to Baltimore.  The plan: give heroin addicts methadone after a 15-minute assessment.

“Sometimes it can take three weeks to a month to get into a methadone program.  The person we’re trying to reach, they’re not going to stand for that.  They’re going to keep using,” Williams said.

Methadone is the drug used to ease withdrawal from heroin.  With it, Williams believes the number of crimes in east Baltimore will drop dramatically.

“We believe that if we can connect with an addict on a street to let them know that same 15 minutes you’re going to invest in a crime, invest in health and the development of your recovery,” he said.

Williams’ plan has critics, especially the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  It says Williams doesn’t have permission to do away with a required evaluation by a doctor and a counselor before treating patients with methadone.

“People need a great deal more than just the dose methadone.  They need real help in getting their lives back together,” said Greg Warren, Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems.

Williams’ clinic already has the license it needs from the state to treat a methadone patient the traditional way.  He says that’s all the documentation he needs to get  them in and out in 15 minutes.

“This concept has never been done before, so of course the state has its questions about it.  So we believe that we are going to simply do what we have already been authorized to do,” Williams said.

Williams says his clinic would serve up to 150 addicts every night once it opens.

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