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Baltimore's largest methadone clinic to remain open despite visit from DEA agents, its president says

The man who runs the city’s largest methadone clinic said it would remain open despite the presence of federal agents at the Turning Point Clinic locations in Baltimore and Columbia.

“We’re definitely open for business,” said the Rev. Milton Emanuel Williams Jr., sitting inside the East Baltimore clinic Thursday night while police cleared the building.

Williams, the clinic’s president, said 10 Drug Enforcement Administration agents had arrived that morning in an unannounced visit to review medication logs and other records of methadone treatments. Williams said it was a routine audit of the facility that happens about once a year. Staff said an additional five agents had visited the Turning Point Clinic in Columbia.

“They came out today looking for something. I have no idea at this point what that might be,” he said. “They took some records from us, which they have the right to do.”

Williams said the visit did not disrupt operations but caused some patients to wait longer than usual. He said the clinic would open Friday morning as usual though federal investigators would be returning to continue their review, he said.

“When the DEA comes out, there’s a perception they must be doing this or they must be doing that,” he said. “They normally come visit us once a year.”

Serving more than 2,000 patients per day, the drug treatment center on North Avenue in Berea is the largest methadone clinic in the country, Williams said. For that reason, he said, he would prefer the DEA inform him ahead of time when it is coming so as not to disrupt treatment. “They want to operate in a shroud of secrecy,” Williams said.

Todd Edwards, a DEA spokesman, said Friday that agents were at the clinics for a routine audit.

“We have law enforcement, but we also have the regulatory side,” Edwards said. “They have the right to go in there and do periodic audits.”

Agents were there in person at the busy clinics to collect documentation for the audit, he said. There were a large number of agents because Turning Point is a large facility.

“It’s always crowded over there, so I’m sure it garnered a lot of interest,” Edwards said of the Baltimore location.

“These places have to be in compliance. There has to be a very good record keeping of any scheduled substances that are being distributed,” including methadone, he said. “They have to do these audits to make sure that the intake and the outtake match up.”

This story has been updated. Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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