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Clinic being probed after methadone found in raid

July 10, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

State officials are investigating the procedures of the Hagerstown Treatment Center after vials of methadone marked with clinic labels were found during a February raid of a city home.

The investigation was prompted by a letter to the Maryland Office of Health and Mental Hygiene by Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith, said J.B. Hanson, spokesman for the state office.

The methadone vials found during the raid were not dispensed to the residents named in the search warrant and the clinic hadn't reported the drugs stolen, Smith said.

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Smith said during a raid of 108 S. Locust St. in February, police found five bottles of methadone next to some heroin.

"The methadone was clearly labeled from the Hagerstown Treatment Center," Smith said.

The labels included the patients' names and a few of the vials were full, Smith said.

During the search, "we also found a 4-year-old girl on the bed with a capsule of heroin right beside her head," said Sgt. Mark Holtzman, director of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

Victor Thomas Winegardner, 31, and Joanie Sue Winters 26, were charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and marijuana, possession of heroin and marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts each of maintaining a common nuisance, contributing to the condition of a child and numerous other drug-related charges. Winters also was charged with five counts of possession of methadone.

In addition to the methadone, numerous needles, three handguns, about $2,000 in cash and quantities of heroin and marijuana were recovered by NTF agents and Hagerstown Street Crimes officers.

In his June 10 letter, Smith asked Dr. Georges Benjamin, Secretary for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office, to review the treatment center's policy of dispensing methadone and determine what controls are in place to prevent the drug from being taken from the clinic and sold.

Hanson said officials "will look into the issue," and the investigation will "be done in a timely manner."

Hanson was not sure what sanctions would be imposed if the clinic is found to be in violation.

"We take the concerns seriously," Hanson said.

The Hagerstown Treatment Center, at 217 E. Antietam St., is a methadone distribution and addiction counseling center for people addicted to heroin and other opiates.

The treatment center, run by Florida-based Colonial Management, opened May 18, 2001, despite opposition by the police, some city officials and some residents.

Clinic spokesman Patrick R. Connelly did not return phone calls last week or on Tuesday.

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