Turning Away From Johns Hopkins

May 29, 2014

The Rev. Milton Williams (at lectern) reading a speech alleging Johns Hopkins Medicine will do anything to stop his Turning Point substance abuse clinic in East Baltimore from expanding. Williams led a protest at the Hopkins Bayview campus in Southeast Baltimore Thursday.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR

An East Baltimore pastor and founder of a substance abuse clinic led dozens of supporters in a protest Thursday against what he called Johns Hopkins Medicine’s efforts to keep him from expanding his clinic.

The Rev. Milton Williams, founder and president of Turning Point Inc., loaded the protestors on buses to take them from his clinic on North Avenue to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in the southeastern corner of the city. He said he chose Bayview, rather than the main hospital a few blocks from his clinic because “it’s all the same entity.”

Williams, senior pastor of the New Life Evangelical Baptist Church, has had a long running feud with Hopkins. In 2012, he claimed that a Hopkins affiliate owed him more than $100,000 for treating patients. The dispute was settled out of court.

The sign above the Turning Point clinic on North Avenue in East Baltimore. The Rev. Milton Williams refers the Johns Hopkins as "Big John." He adds that East Baltimore is Hopkins' "plantation."
Credit P. Kenneth Burns/WYPR

He warned that Hopkins will use its political influence to block his efforts to expand Turning Point’s services. Those expansion plans include a mental health help center, urgent and primary care services. He said the expansion will help reduce the cost of health care in his community.

“If were able to get as many of our patients into this urgent care center rather than the emergency room, we will literally save the state of Maryland millions and millions of dollars by reducing the emergency room visits of our own patients,” said Williams.

In a speech at the protest, Williams alleged that officials at Johns Hopkins and the state health department are conspiring against him.

“We now fully understand why the State of Maryland keeps sending its people to conduct repeated inspections of our clinic. Never-ending interrogations and repeated, repeated attempts to find something, anything the state could use to prevent our progress. Or even to shut us down,” said Williams.

Hopkins Medicine Spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said in a statement, hospital officials “would prefer to speak directly with Rev. Williams so he can share his concerns with us, and hopefully we can resolve any misunderstandings."

State health officials would not address Williams’ allegations, but said the service his clinic provides is an integral part of a network that deals with drug addicts.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is not familiar with the situation involving Turning Point.

An earlier version of this report incorrectly identified Dr. Yngvild Olsen, one of those Williams claims is conspiring against him. She is the medical director of the Institutes for Behavior Resources/REACH Health Services.