There was both good and bad news last week when the D.C. narcotics treatment administration, which last year was forced to close three drug treatment clinics, announced that three additional clinics would be opened last this summer.
The good news, in addition to the opening of the clinics, was that two of the three new centers would be geared toward drug-free rehabilitation. Three of every four patients now under treatment by NTA are on some form of drug maintenace, the most common of which is the synthetic heroin substitute methadone.
The bad news, from the view of agency heads, was that at least two of the new centers would not be located in the community, where access to addicts and rehabilitation potential is considered better. Rather, they would be at D.C. General Hospital. Neighborhood opposition to proposed community clinics in Adams-Morgan and Anacostia had proved too strong, according to NTA officials. Five of NTA's six existing centers are in city neighborhoods.
Fred R. West, director of NTA, acknowledged in announcing the scheduled opening of the clinics that although they would permit an additional 750 persons to be treated, five of every six of the estimated 12,000 drug addicts in the city would still not be affected.
"It may not solve the drug problem. It may not even put a dent in it," West said of the NTA's enlarged treatment capacity. "But we now are at the end of the beginning."
It was one year ago last month that NTA, acknowledging that it lacked the proper staffing to meet federal drug treatment guidelines, closed three centers and consolidated staff in the remaining six.
The closings came at a time when city officials suspected a sharp increase in heroin addition due to be influx of abundant supplies of brown heroin from Mexico known as "Mexican mud." The addiction rate is believed to have dropped some during the past year.
NTA requested additional money from the City Council to keep the centers opeN, but the funds were denied, partly because Council members did not feel the agency's data on the patients under its treatment was current enough.
Since then, however, NTA has received $450,000 from Congress, a $689,063 one-year contract from the National Institute for Drug Abuse and has come up woth $229.681 of its own. The $1.4 million will alow NTA to open three new centers as well as maintain an existing 300-patient facility whose funding ran out at the end of March, West said last week.
One of the two new 300-patient facilities will continue to treat addicts in the same ways now used in NTA's six existing facilities, including maintenance and detoxification.
Another will emphasize drug-free rehabilitation through abstinence, West said. In addition, the third facility - a 150-patient youth center - will also aim for drug-free rehabilitation.
Methadone maintenance has been criticzed because it simply gives persons another addictive drug. In addition, methadone has sometimes been sold illegally on the street as a supplement for heroin addicts.
West and acting DHR director Albert P. Russo said that attempts had been made to locate both of the two larger facilities, which are scheduled to open in July and August, in the community. However, neighborhood opposition blocked the location.
"It's shameful," Russo said last week, "that as we are going forward to expand the resources of this critically needed service we have to resort to locating them in public buildings."
One of the sites NTA had in mind was the McGogney School annex, at Wheeler Road and Valley Avenue SE in Anacostia. Neighborhood parents preferred that the annex be used for additional recreation facilities, even though Anacostia is believed to be one of the areas which drug activity is heaviest.
"The thing was that with the addicts going back and forth, it wouldn't be a good influence on the children," said City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-eight), in whose ward the annex is located. "The people realize that you have to have drug treatment centers. But the location of them is sticky."
NTA officials, privately saying they feared adverse reaction from too much publicity, refused to say where they plan to locate the youth center and when it will open.