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Baltimore to pay drug treatment facilities $50K in ADA-related settlement

Two residential drug treatment facilities will share $50,000 under a settlement between the city of Baltimore and the U.S. Justice Department, which claimed the city’s zoning code violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved the payment at its regular meeting on Wednesday. Under the settlement, $30,000 ultimately will go to Second Genesis Inc. of Silver Spring and $20,000 to Tuerk House Inc. of Baltimore.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young abstained from voting because he sits on the board of directors for Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc., which will receive the settlement money and distribute it to the two centers.

The Justice Department alleged in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in April 2009, that the city’s zoning laws violated the ADA by requiring treatment facilities to obtain a conditional ordinance.

The complaint said the process of receiving a conditional ordinance was “lengthy, costly and burdensome” and that the city used the process to “limit the siting of residential substance abuse treatment facilities based on unfounded fears and stereotypes of individuals recovering from substance abuse.”

Judge J. Frederick Motz issued a partial summary judgment ruling on Feb. 29. Motz concluded that the conditional ordinance requirement passed muster only for larger residential rehab centers. In practice, the ruling noted, the city claimed it was only applying the requirement to those centers. Motz directed the city to revise the zoning code to reflect its actual practice.

The city did so, and the amendments took effect in July.

Greg Warren, president and CEO of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, said the settlement of this case will help meet the “substantial needs of our city’s residents.”

Warren said the proceeds from the settlement will help to reduce the amount of time people have to wait before they can enter residential drug treatment facilities.

At present, the average wait time ranges from several weeks to several months, Warren said.

The settlement allows Second Genesis and Tuerk House “to expend the funds for any purpose within the scope of their drug treatment missions, such as patient care or capital expenses.”

City Solicitor George Nilson on Wednesday called the settlement “an excellent result and outcome to lengthy litigation.” The city was represented by Chief Solicitor Matthew Nayden and Assistant Solicitor Daniel Sparaco.

Amanda Maisels, an attorney with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was on the legal team representing the federal government. Maisels referred a request for comment to the department’s Public Affairs unit, which did not respond to this request.

Thomas Barrett, president and chief executive officer of Second Genesis, and John A. Duberg, interim executive director at Tuerk House, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

As part of the settlement, the city denied violating the ADA or “any other federal law through its zoning laws or practices.”

According to court documents, the conditional ordinance requirements delayed Tuerk House’s expansion for about a year and kept Second Genesis from selling property it owned in Baltimore for about three years.

The city and the Justice Department agreed that there are no remaining individual claims for damages by two other centers named in the complaint, Guadenzia Inc. and Powell Recovery Center.