A Dundalk methadone clinic with a history of community complaints faces nearly $13,000 in fines and has been ordered to remove two trailers from its property.
In an order issued this week, Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge Lawrence M. Stahl wrote that the trailers — which are used for counseling and for drawing patients' blood — amounted to a "de facto illegal expansion of the clinic." Stahl also said the clinic violated county parking regulations, ignored requirements to submit a parking plan and failed to maintain its parking lot.
The B.D. Health Services clinic in the 3900 block of Old North Point Road opened about a decade ago amid neighborhood opposition and has drawn complaints for years.
Neighbors say patients' vehicles block traffic and cause a safety hazard because there's not enough parking to handle clients.
"Certainly, the presence of the trailers only complicated that situation," Stahl wrote. "It is no wonder that the unavailability of parking for clients of the clinic became an issue affecting the clinic's neighbors."
The clinic opens at 5:15 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. Sundays, but is closed Saturdays.
B.D. Health Services also operates methadone clinics in the Baltimore neighborhoods of Bayview, Frankford and Hampden.
Moshe Markowitz, the principal of B.D. Health Services, did not reply to requests for comment. An employee at the clinic said the manager was unavailable to comment. Markowitz is also listed in state records as resident agent for the owner of the Dundalk property, I.Y.H. Realty LLC.
Attorney Howard L. Alderman Jr., who represented the clinic in an administrative hearing in February, said his client is reviewing the order, and it would be premature to comment further on the case.
Stahl fined the clinic $12,800 and ordered it to immediately stop using the trailers for client counseling, meetings and blood-drawing — and to remove them within seven days. Under county law, the clinic has the right to appeal the order within 15 days.
On a recent morning, a steady stream of patients came and went at the Dundalk facility, located in a house with green siding. Many parked across the street, in the parking lot of a strip club.
Last May, when state regulators visited the site as part of a license renewal process, the clinic said it was treating more than 700 patients, state health officials said.
Christopher Garrett, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said regulators have not received any complaints about the clinic.
But Rob Zacherl, president of the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association, said residents have complained to the county over the years about parking, loitering and other issues.
"We were pleased that the county has finally gone after them," Zacherl said. "As a community, we're very happy with the judge's decision."
Prior to Stahl's order, a county inspector cited the clinic in December and again in January for issues related to trailers and parking. The county had approved the trailers for temporary use, but that permit expired at the end of December, and they were not approved for medical or counseling activities, according to the judge's order.
Last year, the County Council changed the property's zoning classification, preventing an expansion of the clinic.
Methadone is used to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates.
Between January and September last year — the latest period for which data is available — Baltimore County had the second-highest number of fatal drug- and alcohol-related overdoses in the state, with 227 deaths, up 54 percent from the previous year.
Baltimore had the most overdose deaths during the same time period in 2016, with 481, according to state health data.
County health officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch said that like Maryland and the rest of the nation, Baltimore County is suffering from an epidemic of opioid abuse.
"This is not just a state or local issue," Branch said. "I think that methadone plays a role, a critical role, in the treatment of the addicted population. It's not the only thing we would utilize, but it's a tool."
Some neighbors said they understand the need for treatment, but say the clinic is out of place in a residential area.
"Just about every family's probably had a friend or family member who's had a drug problem," said Timothy Miskimon, who lives near the clinic. "I understand that."
But Miskimon said that he's found needles in his yard while mowing the grass and that some patients "walk in front of cars like zombies."
"It's one thing after another," he said. "They park in the road. ... They stand in the road.
"Personally, I've always thought that those types of places should be in medical centers, not in neighborhoods," he said.
Another neighbor, Joy Cook, said patients from the clinic "will just come by and take a seat" in her yard, and have asked her teenage son for money.
"It doesn't belong in a neighborhood," she said of the clinic.
County Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen said that if the clinic does not remove the trailers, the county likely will seek a court injunction.