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Baltimore’s Tuerk House aims to finish $10.2M overhaul

Adam Bednar//September 12, 2019

Baltimore’s Tuerk House aims to finish $10.2M overhaul

By Adam Bednar

//September 12, 2019

Bernard Gyebi-Foster, executive director of Tuerk House in Baltimore. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)
Bernard Gyebi-Foster, executive director of Tuerk House in Baltimore. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Tuerk House on Thursday celebrated the pending completion of the first phase of a planned $10.2 million overhaul of its facility in west Baltimore.

Contractors are putting the finishing touches on a six-month $2.4 million project that created 42 new rooms for patients seeking addiction treatment on the third floor of the facility at 730 Ashburton St.

Tuerk House Executive Director Bernard Gyebi-Foster, however, said efforts to overhaul the facility are just beginning.

“There’s about three more phases to go. We still need the money. We don’t have it yet, but we hope that we’ll be able to collaborate with the foundation community and of course some other entities in order to do it,” Gyebi-Foster said.

Overall, the goal in renovating the facility, which opened its doors in 1970 as alternative to addicts’ detoxing in jail or state hospitals, is to expand the facility’s treatment capacity from 72 patient beds to 96. The push to increase the number of patients the facility can serve comes as demand for addiction treatment services increases in tandem with a nationwide opioid addiction epidemic.

Dealing with a large of number of residents battling addiction is nothing new in Baltimore. But Gyebi-Foster, who previously served as Tuerk House’s clinical director, said demand for services in the city surged along with the rise in opioid addictions across the country.

While demand for space has increased, Tuerk House has remained limited in the number of people it can serve. Currently, the building’s second floor can have four to six patients to a room, Gyebi-Foster said. He added that his goal is to have two patients per room.

“Increasing the capacity … brings dignity to our patients, and of course we’re able to create room (and improve privacy) to the degree patients are not overloaded,” he said.

The Tuerk House, located in west Baltimore’s Midtown-Edmondson neighborhood, is poised to serve as a central part of Baltimore’s efforts to treat addiction.

The former Hebrew Orphans Asylum next door to the Tuerk House on Rayner Avenue is undergoing a $17 million renovation, turning the historic building into a “stabilization center.” The center will serve as a key part of the city’s “hub and spoke” model of coping with addiction and is envisioned as a way to divert addicts from emergency rooms and toward treatment.

Cobbling together the money to make the Tuerk House expansion possible has proved a challenge, Gyebi-Foster said. Financial woes at the facility before his tenure as executive director began three years ago have increased the difficulty in raising money.

But after investing $800,000 of Tuerk House’s operational funds in phase one, the nonprofit was able to access $1.8 million from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to complete work renovating the third floor, with work starting about six months ago.

“This building has been in existence since the early 1900s,” Gyebi-Foster said. “It used to be the Old Lutheran Hospital. So it sort of has a hospital feel to it, not necessarily a residential (feeling), and for the longest time we’ve been trying to renovate, but we didn’t have money.”

The first phase of work included upgrades to residential rooms to provide privacy for residents, and private office space and bathrooms for employees.

The next phase of work — if Tuerk House can raise the funds — calls for an addition to the building’s south side toward Rayner Avenue. That project is expected to cost $2.4 million. The nonprofit’s leaders hope to start work in the spring.

The next two phases are to involve overhauls of the three-story building’s first and second floors and are projected to cost a combined $5.7 million. The work could be finished by 2022 if the organization can secure the funding.


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