Mar 24 10 1:32 PM

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Clinic owner trying to make peace with wary merchants Markowitz steps into lion's den at association meeting By Larry Perl lperl@patuxent.com Posted 3/24/10 Providing methadone to drug addicts is "the smallest part of a methadone clinic," Moshe Markowitz said March 12 as he showed a reporter around the former medical office that houses his much-scrutinized Hampden Health Solutions. The after-hours tour -- at 10:30 a.m. -- was conducted with no clients present. There wasn't much to see in the austere, rented suite, formerly Baltimore Medical Systems, at Falls Road and West 36th Street, southern gateway to The Avenue. There were six counseling rooms, a waiting area and a doctor's office that doubles as a counseling room. There were window blinds in the lobby to protect the privacy of 38 active clients, who walk in off the street and are buzzed in between 5 to 10 a.m. daily. And there was a nurse's office, where 30-cc bottles of methadone are dispensed and then collected immediately after clients drink the contents, Markowitz said. There were no security cameras outside the building. "I was under the impression the landlord had cameras," said Markowitz, owner of the clinic that has generated consternation among many merchants and residents since it opened last month. "We're adding cameras out front." Markowitz said he didn't want to be photographed for this article, to protect his and his clients' privacy. But he was looking for good press, after weeks of stories in which merchants and residents were quoted as saying his clinic should not be so close to stores and schools. At a meeting of the Hampden Village Merchants Association two days earlier, he held his ground in the lion's den, introducing and defending himself, and answering a barrage of questions about everything from whether all of his clients live in the area to why he didn't tell the community the clinic was coming. "I trust that we can work together as good neighbors," he said, adding, "I'm sure in a year and a half, we're going to see an article in the Messenger, saying this was an asset to the community." But Markowitz received a chilly reception from merchants and members of the Hampden Community Council. "Quite honestly, I don't trust you," said George Peters Jr., who chairs the community council's Zoning Committee. There's nothing the community or Baltimore City Council can do to remove the clinic under current zoning. But the merchants' group, with two City Council members and a representative for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on hand, got Markowitz to agree to bring a list of clients' Zip codes to the April 14 merchants' meeting because they fear he will market the clinic to addicts citywide. The group insisted he write a formal letter, too, promising to install security cameras and detailing clinic policies on loitering, expansion and other issues. Foremost among the community's complaints is that the clinic opened without Markowitz first seeking the blessing of the community council. "We're not a hard group to get ahold of," Peters said. Markowitz apologized and said he informed state health officials as required by law. He said he thought the state would then tell the public. Also a concern for merchants is that addicts will loiter, panhandle and stumble along the streets in a stupor, scaring off potential customers. Debbie Stoll, owner of the cosmetics shop Kiss N' Makeup on The Avenue, said she holds in-store parties for girls. "I'm not going to get repeat business from a Roland Park mother who's pushing (an addict) out of the way so her little girl can get in the store," Stoll said. Markowitz, who also owns clinics in Dundalk and Highlandtown, said the one in Hampden is only open before businesses are, and that the clients have jobs and come to get well. "It's a major step," he said. "This is not a crack house; it's a treatment center." Giving the tour later that week, he said many clients have related "dimensions," such as family, relationship, and education issues that lead to drug abuse. That's where counseling comes in. "Methadone really works," he said. "If they're taking away the urge, we can deal with the rest of their personal dimensions." http://www.explorebaltimorecounty.com/news/105280/clinic-owner-trying-make-peace-with-wary-merchants/#comment-2813

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