BALTIMORE - More than a hundred organized Wednesday outside St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church supporting a medical clinic and drug treatment center in the Harwood neighborhood, proposed by the Concerted Care Group.
Shouts of, “We need help. We need it now,” echoed outside the church.
The group has been in talks with the city for nine months. At stake, a $1.4 million methadone clinic to be built along East 25th Street.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE for a reaction from the protest's organizer
“We’ve targeted this and see that there’s a big population that needs treatment,” said Noah Nordheimer with Concerted Care Group.
The project, which Nordheimer says would create 50 jobs and make care more easily accessible to those in Harwood, has been met with resistance from Baltimore City Council members Carl Stokes and Mary Pat Clarke.
According to a July 7 letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Nordheimer cites a June 23rd meeting with Councilman Stokes about the clinic’s possible future:
“June 23rd is when Councilman Stokes told me that they had too many social service providers, and they didn’t need it there.”
On the same day, Councilman Stokes and Councilwoman Clarke proposed a rezoning ordinance for the properties of interest along East 25th Street, jeopardizing the clinic’s future.
“We’re different than the other treatment clinics,” Nordheimer said. “We’re providing opiate treatment as well as mental health and primary care. Part of our philosophy is to treat the whole person.”
An overview of the surrounding neighborhoods shows two drug treatment clinics near the proposed site for Concerted Care Group. One facility is Man Alive (2117 Maryland Ave.), and the other is the Institutes for Behavioral Resources (2104 Maryland Ave.). It’s a fact Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said supports claims of high concentration.
“Overwhelming in all of this is that this part of the city, other than one, has the highest saturation of treatment programs,” she said. “There is a need everywhere. Better we should have smaller, localized centers in various neighborhoods than have mega regional centers in this neighborhood.”
A meeting Wednesday, organized by the Central Baltimore Partnership, focused on the issue of saturation. Clarke said both sides were well-represented, but Nordheimer said they weren’t invited to attend. He also claims those speaking for the Central Baltimore Partnership weren't honest with their findings.
“They try and skew the data by lumping it together in 12 neighborhoods," he said. “Eventually you’ll get the data you’re looking for.”
Outside the church, those claiming to support the new clinic picketed, making their voices heard.
“The young people, getting younger and younger,” said Tanya Cobb. “[The City] will open up as many programs as he can.”
But as the meeting ended and protesters boarded the bus, ABC2 News cameras picked up a different story.
“Put this on the news,” said one protester. “They don’t want to try and pay us.”
Upon hearing the claim, a woman can be heard responding, “Everybody’s gonna get their money.”
Another unnamed protester claimed, “They offered all of us money to carry picket signs around.” When asked if they thought it was ok, the man responded, “If they don’t pay us, it ain’t.”
Another man we interview didn’t even know why he was there. “We need housing,” he said. “Housing and help.”
An unidentified organizer wouldn’t comment on Concerted Care Group’s payment practices, but Nordheimer confirmed it happened. “It’s not an uncommon practice,” he said. “It was a nominal amount.”
Nordheimer said his group paid the protesters $20 for their time, reimbursement he says, for food, transportation and child care. When asked if he thought news of paying supporters could skew the perception of the protest, he replied, "A lot of them are single-member households with kids. They have to take care of those kids. We’re going to provide food. It’s difficult to for us to all of that on a street corner when we’re not allowed inside the church to speak. Reimbursing people a nominal amount? I don’t think is the story.”
Nordheimer said Concerted Care Group is looking into whether the proposed rezoning of the East 25th Street property is in violation of the American Disabilities Act.
The Old Goucher Community Association says, while they’re not taking a “not in my backyard” position, they do stand with the findings that the Harwood area of the city is oversaturated.