Turning Point Clinic treating more people than a year ago

Posted at 5:00 PM, Aug 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-10 23:25:44-04

Thursday, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a "national emergency." In Baltimore, it's been a local emergency for a long time. 

Last year, anchor Christian Schaffer visited the busiest methadone treatment clinic in the city to get a sense of how it's try to stem the tide of people addicted to heroin. Now, more than a year later we found that the tide of people addicted in Baltimore City has not receded, but in fact could be more of a flood than ever.

RELATED: Self proclaimed 'largest methadone clinic on planet Earth' serves 2,200 people daily

Every day, the Turning Point Clinic, at the far eastern end of North Avenue, treats 3,000 people addicted to heroin and other opioids. 

"We're trying to heal all the hurts and it ain't easy," said Rev. Milton Williams who runs the clinic.

He also runs the attached ministry. At one service, more than 100 people gathered to talk about their struggle. 

The treatment process at Turning Point involves methadone, along with intense counseling, spiritual help and a food pantry. 

Methadone is approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction. Unlike heroin, though, methadone does not produce a euphoric "high" and it takes more than a day to wear off. 

The number of people coming to Turning Point for their daily dose of methadone is up. Daily, the center has about 3,000 people, up from 2,200 just over a year ago. 

"Every day this thing is growing larger and larger and larger and there's no end in sight," Williams said.

That's because, Williams says, new addicts are being created every day. There are more people on the streets using heroin, not less. And more people are becoming addicted to opioid painkillers prescribed by their doctors.

"They're folks starting out experimenting with the pills and before you know it, what starts off as a good time or fun ends up in a lot of pain and you are truly and actually addicted, or chemically dependent," Williams said.

Regardless of how the addiction starts, the fact is addicts need treatment, or eventually they will overdose on heroin or one of the more potent drugs that dealers add to it, like fentanyl or carfentanil. There's also the possibility of incarceration for crimes in an attempt to get the fix.

"I think sometimes we want to deny that reality," Williams said. "But if we want to accept the truth of what's going on, addicts and chemically dependent persons are everywhere today. All across the state of Maryland, all across the United States, everywhere you go this problem is existing."

This summer, Mayor Catherine Pugh talked openly about the possibility that treating so many people addicted to drugs at methadone clinics in the city might not be an effective long term strategy.

If you or someone you know needs help finding treatment for drug abuse, you can call the Maryland Crisis Hotline at 1-800-422-0009 or click here.