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Baltimore Times Profile of Turning Point, 8 and 9/14

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/sep/12/turning-point-operates-principle-recovery-lifelong/

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/aug/08/rev-milton-e-williams-helping-drug-addicts-east-ba/

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/aug/29/freed-bondage-drug-addiction/

 In August and September 2014, the Baltimore Times ran a three-part series on the Turning Point Clinic. The first installment profiled how the clinic is “leading the people of East Baltimore out of the bondage of drug addiction.” Having recently admitted its 5,000th patient, the clinic has “become the largest faith-based substance abuse clinic in the country, and possibly the world.” The report notes how the clinic currently has approximately 1,800 patients with 39 licensed and certified clinicians. The Time’s second article profiled a Baltimore woman who, partly thanks to the treatment and counseling she has received from Turning Point Clinic, has kicked a 20-year, $1,500 per week, drug habit. The woman has been drug-free for 10 years. The third installment in the series reports on how Rev. Williams has been inspired by his faith to help the drug-addicted. “Everything I have done has been inspired by God, including the name,” said Rev. Williams. “Turning Point means a turning point in your life. We were able to open our doors in July of 2003. Within a few months, every slot was gone.” In addition to Turning Point Clinic, New Life Evangelical Church also operates Hard Times Food Pantry, which distributes more food to the needy than any pantry in the city.

In August and September 2014, the Baltimore Times ran a three-part series on the Turning Point Clinic.

In August and September 2014, the Baltimore Times ran a three-part series on the Turning Point Clinic.

The first installment profiled how the clinic is “leading the people of East Baltimore out of the bondage of drug addiction.” Having recently admitted its 5,000th patient, the clinic has “become the largest faith-based substance abuse clinic in the country, and possibly the world.” The report notes how the clinic currently has approximately 1,800 patients with 39 licensed and certified clinicians.

The Time’s second article profiled a Baltimore woman who, partly thanks to the treatment and counseling she has received from Turning Point Clinic, has kicked a 20-year, $1,500 per week, drug habit. The woman has been drug-free for 10 years.

The third installment in the series reports on how Rev. Williams has been inspired by his faith to help the drug-addicted. “Everything I have done has been inspired by God, including the name,” said Rev. Williams. “Turning Point means a turning point in your life. We were able to open our doors in July of 2003. Within a few months, every slot was gone.” In addition to Turning Point Clinic, New Life Evangelical Church also operates Hard Times Food Pantry, which distributes more food to the needy than any pantry in the city.

Part 1:

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/aug/08/rev-milton-e-williams-helping-drug-addicts-east-ba/

Part 2:

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/aug/29/freed-bondage-drug-addiction/

Part 3:

https://baltimoretimes-online.com/news/2014/sep/12/turning-point-operates-principle-recovery-lifelong/

Turning Away From Johns Hopkins, WYPR – NPR, 6/14

https://news.wypr.org/post/turning-away-johns-hopkins

In June 2014, Rev. Williams – frustrated by Johns Hopkins Medicine’s efforts to keep him from expanding his clinic to include mental health, urgent and primary care services — lead supporters in a protest outside one of the university’s facilities, WYPR, Baltimore’s National Public Radio affiliate, reported. Williams said the expansion of his clinic would save the State of Maryland millions of dollars by redirecting patients from hospital emergency rooms into his urgent care center. The report quotes Rev. Williams’ speech where he alleges that officials at Johns Hopkins and the state health department are conspiring against him. “We now fully understand why the State of Maryland keeps sending its people to conduct repeated inspections of our clinic. Never-ending interrogations and repeated, repeated attempts to find something, anything the state could use to prevent our progress. Or even to shut us down,” Rev. Williams said.

WBAL on death of manager

  • BALTIMORE —An executive at east Baltimore’s Turning Point Clinic is missing after a dive off the coast of Indonesia last week, and his co-workers are planning a memorial service in his honor.
  • Thapana Tee Thiracharoenpanya

Turning Point Clinic

  • Thapana “Tee” Thiracharoenpanya, 28, disappeared April 17 during a diving trip with three friends in Indonesia when he didn’t resurface after the group got stuck in strong currents, according to the substance abuse clinic.
  • Tap here for video
  • Turning Point said Thiracharoenpanya was last seen signaling that his oxygen was running out as they were struggling to reach the surface.
  • “In Tee’s fashion, he untethered himself to try to get help, and that was the last that they saw of Tee,” said the Rev. Milton Williams, the chief executive officer of Turning Point.
  • His diving partners made it to the surface and were picked up by a dive boat, but Thiracharoenpanya was not with them.
  • “That’s Tee. That’s exactly how he would have handled the situation, and in his efforts, he lost his life trying to save others. It’s a very, very sad time for us,” Williams said.
  • Crews began to search the shoreline of nearby Komodo Island for his body, but so far, he hasn’t been found and is presumed dead.
  • Thiracharoenpanya joined Turning Point’s finance department three years ago and was to be promoted to vice president upon his return.
  • Williams said diving was Thiracharoenpanya’s passion, and he took diving trips all over the world.  He was born and raised in Thailand and left his family there to work at the Baltimore clinic and serve thousands of patients.
  • “Tee has to be considered the salt of the Earth. Tee brought to us something so special,” Williams said. “He was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, compassionate young men I ever met in my life.”
  • The CEO said the pain of accepting that the search is now a recovery effort has devastated his co-workers, who are now planning a memorial service for him at 11 a.m. Thursday. Williams said his employees plan to plant a tree from Thailand in front of the building to honor their co-worker.
  • “It was a shock to all of us. I wish the world was filled with people just like Tee,” he said.
  • Williams called Turning Point the largest methadone maintenance clinic in the world that serves addicts.

Clinic protests “Big John” over Medicaid payments, The Johns Hopkins Newsletter, 10/12

https://www.jhunewsletter.com/2012/10/25/clinic-protests-big-john-over-medicaid-payments-97563/

In October 2012, the Turning Point Clinic lead a protest outside the Hopkins Hospital over $100,000 owed to the clinic by a Hopkins affiliate for new patient assessments and care. In a report on the protest, The Johns Hopkins Newsletter quoted Rev. Williams: “It is just us, Big John, Turning Point Clinic, whom you’ve fought and sabotaged for 10 years. But today is the day of reckoning. And it’s long overdue. We are here today on your doorstep, Big John, daring to crawl out of your shadow as the self-proclaimed champions of quality healthcare, and from under your thumb, to protest — actually, to condemn — your hypocrisy and greed.”

Protesters accuse Hopkins of withholding Medicaid funds

https://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-10-18/health/bs-hs-hopkins-protest-20121018_1_medicaid-patients-medicaid-program-medicaid-funds

The Baltimore Sun reported a protest led by Turning Point Clinic outside Johns Hopkins Hospital. The people were protesting Johns Hopkins for owing more than $100,000 in Medicaid payments to the clinic.

Methadone clinic considers offering cash to addicts

Northeast Baltimore program says it wants to attract users to treatment and reduce crime

September 13, 2011|By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

A Northeast Baltimore clinic that once pitched on-demand methadone to desperate addicts during the late-night hours is focusing on a new idea — paying addicts to come in for treatment.

“We are targeting a non-traditional population of addicts that isn’t so interested in treatment,” said the Rev. Milton Williams, who runs Turning Point Clinic, housed in his New Life Evangelical Baptist Church. “This will be an incentive.”

The state has yet to approve the original on-demand, or “open access” idea, citing federal rules that require, for example, a lengthy examination of anyone getting methadone, a Schedule 2 narcotic. The incentive, $20 supplied by a private foundation or other group yet to be named, is a “Plan B,” one Williams believes doesn’t need any special approvals because the program would be run as a traditional clinic, just at night with no appointments.

Williams had proposed the open-access clinic, from 6 p.m. to midnight, in June, with addicts getting methadone within 15 minutes of walking through his door. It would be an opportunity to steer addicts to traditional treatment, offered at the clinic during the day, though he said he expected many would eschew the opportunity. But he said such a clinic would most certainly stop the crimes of those needing money for a fix, crimes he often witnesses from his North Avenue church.

That idea won him support from some police officers and politicians. State health officials said they also supported the idea but needed a full plan to win federal approvals to be reimbursed the $90 to $150 weekly cost of methadone — a full plan the state says it has yet to get.

State officials also said Turning Point’s traditional clinic has deficiencies, including the number of counselors available, and officials should focus on them before taking on a new program. Turning Point says those problems have been addressed.

“From our perspective, there are still questions that remain unanswered,” said Kathleen Rebbert-Franklin, deputy director of the state’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. “It’s neither a yes nor a no. We need additional information to take the next step.”

Backing up the state’s reservations are some addictions experts, who say 15 minutes isn’t enough time to do a proper evaluation of an addict. Addicts need, for example, to submit to a urine test because methadone cannot be provided to someone who is already high. And addicts need to be watched for adverse responses.

One expert also questioned the treatment value of using cash to lure hard-core addicts who don’t yet want treatment.

Dr. Michael Fingerhood, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University who treats addicts, said Turning Point may prevent some crimes. “And there is value in that,” he said. “And having the program open at night when an addict suffers from cravings is a nice model.”

He said a small number may actually decide to get traditional treatment, too, rather than the short-term detox Turning Point plans to offer. But most will come for the money — and use it to buy heroin.

“If you give an addict $20, he’ll turn around a day later and spend $20 on drugs, even if he gets a dose of methadone,” Fingerhood said. “Most programs that give incentives usually offer a voucher and not cash. Or why not give them food? Once word of mouth gets out that they are offering $20, people will come in droves for the money and not methadone. They won’t know what to do.”

Methadone clinic considers offering cash to addicts, The Baltimore Sun, 9/11

https://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-13/health/bs-hs-turning-point-20110913_1_methadone-clinic-addicts-kathleen-rebbert-franklin

Turning Point Clinic proposed paying addicts to come in for treatment, the Baltimore Sun reported. “We are targeting a non-traditional population of addicts that isn’t so interested in treatment,” Rev. Williams said. “This will be an incentive.”

Time for Methadone on Demand, Baltimore Sun, 7/11

https://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-07-11/news/bs-ed-methadone-20110711_1_methadone-treatment-heroin-addicts-treatment-slots

In July 2011, the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed written by Rev. Williams where he explained how the Turning Point Clinic was to become a true “on-demand” methadone program. “We have committed to getting addicts in, evaluated, medicated safely, and out the door in 15 minutes,” Williams wrote. “Turning Point operates the largest methadone program in Baltimore and Maryland. This traditional program serves the needs of addicts who are trying to become drug free. I have dedicated my life to helping such people.”

Orlando Sentinel article on opening of clinic

Baltimore pastor to open on-demand methadone clinic

By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

Tired of the heroin and crime surrounding his Northeast Baltimore church and treatment center, the Rev. Milton Williams said Thursday that he plans to open the city’s first “open access” clinic, which will hand out methadone within 15 minutes to any addict who walks through the door.

Williams said defiantly that he will open the doors of his Turning Point clinic on North Avenue on July 5 to possibly 100-150 addicts a night — though he still lacks approval from state and federal regulators.

“The waiting game is over,” Williams said in announcing the program in front of a crowd that included city police officers and representatives of city and federal lawmakers. “It means one less desperate criminal will be walking our streets at night.”


Williams acknowledged that this is not a traditional treatment program, like the one he runs during the day. A shortage of openings in programs statewide can mean delays of days to months, and this is an interim measure aiming to give addicts a fix and a line to treatment.

But state officials say he hasn’t received permission from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bypass federal regulations that require a physician’s and counselor’s evaluation, drug testing and a treatment plan before a dose of methadone is prescribed.

Williams has only made a proposal to the state medical director, said Thomas Cargiulo, director of the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, which oversees clinics in the state. He said Williams needs a variance and has not applied for one. Further, 15 minutes may not be sufficient to properly evaluate an addict.


 

Cargiulo did say Williams’ idea was appealing, and he agreed that the federal red tape is a barrier to treatment that ought to be cut. “But from what I know now, it sounds like what he wants to do is outside of what the regulations allow,” he said. “You can’t have someone walk off the street and get a Schedule 2 narcotic.”

He also said Williams’ clinic currently can’t take any more patients into its traditional treatment program because he lacked the proper number of counselors per clients, among other issues. Williams said the problems are resolved, and Cargiulo said he would have the clinic re-inspected soon. That could mean a boost of traditional slots from more than 600 to 1,000 at Turning Point.

Cargiulo said the state has been ramping up treatment slots across the state even though funding has been cut over the years. The budget for substance abuse prevention and treatment for fiscal 2012 is nearly $156 million, mostly from federal and state sources.

Though there were not even 15,000 state-funded slots available, more than 50,000 individuals received treatment in fiscal 2010 — though Cargiulo said tens of thousands more need help. Lack of available slots has long been cited as a problem, particularly in Baltimore.

Williams charged that state and city officials just don’t want to see his faith-based treatment program take the lead on a new way of treating addicts.

“We intend to do this with or without the blessing of our mayor, our governor or our elected officials in Annapolis,” he said.

Representatives of the mayor and governor didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Williams said he wasn’t concerned with offending elected officials. This is personal.

Though he lives in Owings Mills, his daughter found her way into the city’s drug scene, he said. Lisa Renee Brown was shot in the head and killed in 2002 in the Park Heights area in what Williams said was part of a drug deal gone bad. She was sitting in a car owned by former heavyweight boxing champion Hasim Rahman with one of the boxer’s employees, though the boxer was not implicated in a crime. She left behind three children.

Baltimore police officers at Williams’ press event said they support the program because locking up addicts hasn’t solved the drug problem.

Detective Donny Moses, now a spokesman for the department, said he spent five years in the narcotics division and during that time “had a change of heart” about arresting addicts.

“I must have arrested a million and one people addicted to heroin, and I thought there had to be a better way,” he said. “I was thinking this was someone’s daughter or son and someone was praying for you. … The Police Department is no longer interested in locking up all the addicts.”

Lt. Col. Ross Buzzuro from the police commissioner’s office, added, “We can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem. We’re seeking those wreaking the most havoc on the city. Our mission has changed somewhat.”

And while some addicts at the event said they had committed their share of crimes, they were just trying to get high.

Romaine Vance said she grew up in the suburbs and got a college degree before succumbing to drugs. She said she stayed on heroin for 20 years before getting into treatment at Turning Point and becoming a regular five years ago at Williams’ New Life Evangelical Baptist Church, which houses the clinic.

She said nighttime is the worst for addicts because there’s nothing around but cravings. If someone had offered her methadone on any given night, she would have taken it. The alternative was stealing or prostituting. And prison.

“As addicts, we don’t want to be sick,” she said. “If you could get us meds, we’d open our ears. The whole focus is getting meds.”

She believes many addicts would seek a traditional treatment program if they’d had methadone once.

Dr. Hendree Jones, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins and an addictions specialist, said that may be true. She wasn’t familiar with the Turning Point program but said a 2006 study by other Hopkins researchers found that in Baltimore those who got interim methadone treatment were more likely to end up in traditional treatment than those put on a waiting list.

Those participants, however, were given up to 120 days of methadone and emergency counseling. They also took longer than 15 minutes to get started, Jones said. That time may not be sufficient to properly assess if someone is an addict through a urine test and observance of track marks and mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms.

She estimated that two to three hours would be needed, and then three weeks to years for treatment.

A non-addict who slips in to the program could begin seeking drugs or could overdose, she said. Addicts would have to be monitored the first time they take methadone to ensure they don’t become too heavily sedated or their heart rate is not too depressed, and the craving is actually suppressed. They also can’t be high at the time, or they could overdose.

And under law, only those addicts who test negative for a certain length of time for opioids — including heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone — can leave a clinic with a dose in hand.


 

Still, Jones said she supports efforts to expand treatment with methadone. It can have a huge impact in terms of quality of life and reducing crime when ancillary services also are offered including drug, employment and HIV counseling.

“Methadone lasts in a person’s body for 24 hours, so it might prevent someone from going out and shooting up heroin, which would be a good thing. But one time is not treatment,” she said. “We do need more treatment. People are desperate for treatment. There are waiting lists.”

That’s the problem, Williams says.

He said his walk-ins would get instant approval for five days of methadone from a state-approved medical care organization, Maryland Physicians Care, which would bill Medicaid. A representative of Maryland Physicians Care reiterated support for the program at the press event Thursday. Other insurers could not be reached or said they’d not yet heard about the program.


 

Williams could not estimate the cost to Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, though he said a week’s worth of methadone costs $90-$150.

“Poor people can’t afford that,” he said. “And they can’t wait.”