West Baltimore substance use treatment center grows detox treatment capacity, adds community pharmacy

Bernard Gyebi-Foster, executive director at Tuerk House Inc., at the facility's main campus Jan. 18, 2023, in West Baltimore.

Bernard Gyebi-Foster strode through the gleaming kitchen inside a West Baltimore substance use treatment center, pausing now and then to chat with a staff member or proudly point out a sparkling new appliance.

He gestured at the big screens that will soon display each day’s menu, the buffet line where patients will be served hot meals, and the walk-in freezer that looked like it belonged in a restaurant.


All were added to the Tuerk House main campus on Ashburton Street as part of an ongoing $10.2 million renovation project that, since 2018, has increased the number of beds that can be used for withdrawal management from four to 58.

When the project is finished, according to Tuerk House spokeswoman Lindsay Hebert, the facility will have 88 beds that will be able to be used for all levels of residential substance use disorder treatment.


Apart from expanding the 50-year-old treatment center’s capability to care for people struggling with substance use disorder — a population that has ballooned over the past several years during the coronavirus pandemic — Gyebi-Foster hopes the additions will send a message.

“We want to communicate to Baltimore residents, ‘You are worth all of this,’” said Gyebi-Foster, executive director of Tuerk House and a licensed clinical professional counselor.

Bernard Gyebi-Foster, left, executive director, walks with Yaw Owusu, marketing director, at Tuerk House Inc., a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center, on Jan. 18, 2023, in Baltimore.

The substance use center, which serves about 300 patients a day and has seven locations across Baltimore and Howard County, revealed the latest phase of the renovation earlier this month.

In the third phase, which cost $3.6 million, workers finished interior construction on the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Wing, named for the foundation that donated $700,000 to the project.

The first level of the addition includes an updated kitchen, dining hall and community space. The second level features 18 withdrawal management treatment beds. The renovated wing also includes an X-ray room, an urgent care and pharmacy that can be used by anyone in the surrounding community, and a staff lounge.

The fourth and final phase of the project, expected to be finished this summer and cost $2.1 million, will include refinishing the building’s stairways, improving its exterior and landscaping, and adding more furniture and equipment to the facility.

About 70% of the project was funded by the state, Gyebi-Foster said, leaving the center to raise the rest of the final cost from local organizations and agencies such as The France-Merrick Foundation and the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development.

The pharmacy gets its final construction at Tuerk House, a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center in West Baltimore, on Jan. 18, 2023.

The renovation project began in 2018, one year after Gyebi-Foster became the center’s executive director.


He reflected on what the center used to look like as he walked through one of the newly renovated residential suites, which featured two neatly made beds and a painting of a floral scene on one wall.

“If you look at the old facility,” he said, “you wouldn’t even want an animal to live there.”

In the center’s earlier years, Gyebi-Foster said, it wasn’t rare for eight or 10 patients to stay together in one big room. Now, with two beds to a room and four patients sharing a bathroom, there’s more privacy — and more dignity.

“Environment of care does a lot for a patient’s psyche as far as recovery is concerned,” Gyebi-Foster said.

In the project’s previous phase, Tuerk House added The Andre Kennedy Center for Integrated Behavioral Health and Urgent Care. Since the clinic opened in December 2021, it has provided outpatient therapy and treatment for mental health disorders, walk-in medical care for nonemergency illnesses and injuries, and medication-assisted therapy for substance use disorders.

Even before construction began, changes were coming to Tuerk House.


In 2018, the center partnered with the Baltimore City Health Department to start the state’s first crisis stabilization center, which provides community members with a safe place to detox and receive short-term medical care and social services.

The crisis stabilization center, located in the basement of the historic Hebrew Orphan Asylum, next door to Tuerk House’s main campus, has seen daily admissions tick up in just the past two months, said Maud Aryee, its director.

Maud Aryee, nurse practitioner and director of Maryland Treatment Crisis Center at Tuerk House Inc., on Jan. 18, 2023, in Baltimore.

Since December, Aryee said, the stabilization center has been admitting 12 to 15 patients per day, compared with the usual eight. Over the years, Aryee also has noticed that the patients coming to the center are sicker and more likely to have mental health issues in addition to substance use problems.

“It’s literally a pandemic with fentanyl, alcohol, substance use, mental health,” said Aryee, a dual-certified family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. “So, Tuerk House is so very important — not just with helping them with their substance use, but also helping them with mental health.”

Gyebi-Foster and his colleagues know it may take someone several tries to get sober before their recovery sticks. In 2019, 32% of the patients who sought help at the center had been there before.

They follow the Stages of Change recovery model, which was developed by researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the 1980s to reflect the phases a person is likely to experience when struggling with substance use disorder.


In the “pre-contemplation stage,” a person isn’t ready to change, and nobody can force them to, Gyebi-Foster said. But experiencing the environment of a center like the Tuerk House may push them forward on their path to recovery.

“There are many patients who may come through here, and they are not ready to stop,” he said. “They want a hot shower, they want a meal — then, out. Especially at the stabilization center. But the point is, they know that it is here. And they can always come.”

As a substance use counselor at the center, Erika Gaines regularly sees people cycle through the Stages of Change. What’s important is that clinicians don’t shame patients as they continually return for help. Recovery, she said, is a process.

Tuerk House also faces pressure from an expanding homeless population. Gyebi-Foster estimated that around 70% of the people the center serves were unhoused before being admitted.

Workers install two self-care massage chairs inside the staff lounge at Tuerk House, a Baltimore nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment center, on Jan. 18, 2023.

Most of Tuerk House’s patients are on Medicaid — 71%, according to the center’s 2019 fiscal year report. And even though about 62% of city residents are Black, 71% of patients served by Tuerk House were Black as of 2019.

But addiction knows no boundaries, Gyebi-Foster said. He’s seen a dentist as a patient at the facility. One patient, Laura Schloer — who was staying at the facility this month — is a former registered nurse.


The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

Jan. 18 marked her 13th day there, she said. She’s been a part of a few different recovery programs, she said, but Tuerk House is the first where she’s felt like the staff cares.

“They don’t just care while you’re here,” she said. “They want to set you up with transitional housing and the next step afterwards.”

Schloer, who was being treated for alcohol use disorder, is also in recovery from fentanyl addiction — a condition she developed after being prescribed opioids while being treated for endometriosis.

While struggling with addiction, Schloer lost her nursing license. She plans to work on getting it restored, she said.

“You’re going to come work for us?” asked Gyebi-Foster, smiling at her.

Schloer laughed.


“Yes, after I get my license back.”