Pair opens 'recovery-based' center to treat addictions

When Samuel Bierman and Zachary Snitzer opened Maryland Addiction Recovery Center last January, they'd done their homework. The co-founders knew they wanted to be in Maryland, particularly Baltimore County. But they chose Towson, where their center is located at 110 West Road, for a few reasons.

"It's centralized, and easy to reach," said Bierman, executive director, "and the biggest group needing help are 15-to-30 year-olds. That's a major demographic in this area," a reference to the local college scene.

"There was clearly a need for our center not only in Baltimore City but in Baltimore County and the surrounding counties," said Snitzer, director of business development with an expertise in marketing.

"We thought we could bring something unique to the area," said Snitzer, an Owings Mills native.

The Maryland Addiction Recovery Center is situated in an office building. The private, for-profit facility has a staff of four full-time master's degree-level clinicians along with a medical director and a consultant, Mike Gimbel, of Mike Gimbel Associates, a long-time and well-known local authority on addiction.

The center offers morning and evening programs for adults and a program specifically for adolescents held in the afternoon, after school ends. The center opened with 15 patients. It has since doubled that number, to 30 patients, a figure that Bierman says is steadily increasing.

The center isn't limited to treatment of substance abuse in the form of opiates, cocaine, prescription medications, alcohol and, as Bierman put it, "every chemical you can be dependent on." It also treats sexual, gambling and shopping addictions as well as mental health problems like anxiety and depression that often are present with substance abuse.

So far, adult patients are split 50/50 men and women. They range from business people to recent college graduates, said Bierman, a certified addiction professional and certified interventionist who worked for several years with the Caron Foundation, a nonprofit treatment center in Pennsylvania.

Both Bierman and Snitzer say they are recovered drug addicts, and the philosophy at the center reflects their treatment experiences.

"We call it recovery-based," said Bierman, meaning that detoxification is part of the treatment. "I see other treatment centers, especially with opiate addicts, use replacement medication, also known as medication management, where they substitute methadone — another narcotic."

While Bierman might give a center patient a non-narcotic medication during detox, the goal is to be drug-free.

"Addiction is a physical, psycho-social, spiritual and mental illness. It's very difficult to address the other parts [besides physical] if the patient is still on a narcotic, even though the narcotic, like methadone, may be legal," Bierman said.

He said that the center's philosophy is not unknown in the state. A handful of other treatment facilities do the same, notably Father Martin's Ashley in Havre de Grace and Phoenix Recovery Center in Edgewood.

"Nationally it's the norm but for Maryland, it's unusual," Bierman said.

Another aspect of the center's philosophy is treating the family along with the patient. Bierman said most treatment plans are a combination of individual, group and family therapy.

"We take a family systems approach, such as how they can support their relative while in treatment and recovery, what resources are available to them, and how they can stay healthy," he said.

Mike Gimbel said the center's philosophy has shown success in states where it is used although it isn't as widely known in Maryland. "The center feels strongly that abstinence — being 100 percent clean — is the ultimate goal," Gimbel said. "I feel confident endorsing them."

David Marks, Fifth District Baltimore County Councliman, in which the center is located, calls it "well-credentialed."

Towson is already home to some treatment facilities, but Marks said he had not heard any criticism of the new center opening. "Towson is a populated area. You've got two colleges and lots of young people," he said. "People recognized the need for a center that likes to help people."

In Maryland, there are a variety of treatment options, according to Dr. Lisa Hadley, clinical director of the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Hadley said many facilities use medication management. A medication like methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone is used to keep a person off drugs and functioning. "Some people can't perform without them," she said.

Some facilities use these medications as part of a treatment program. "They are part of the program but not the treatment itself," she said, while still other facilities aim for the person to be free of all drugs, including those used in medication management.

"Everyone is different. No one treatment is right for everyone," said Hadley. "The department supports all available options. The goal is to get your life back, stay in recovery and not use drugs."

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