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The new director of the city’s detox program carries some familiar baggage.
The city’s 50-bed detox unit has never been a top-notch facility. Housed in a squat red building on the grounds of D.C. General Hospital, it doesn’t exactly look like the Betty Ford Clinic. Lately, however, its problems have been worse than usual. In November, a counselor there was fired after his superiors learned that he had forged his counseling credentials. Then, in January, Detox lost its administrator after a client alleged that the administrator had had sex with her. A month later, Detox Medical Director Dr. John Bedeau was placed on administrative leave after the Washington City Paper reported that Bedeau was spending much of his time working at his two private practice offices rather than at his full-time city job (“Strung Out,” 2/10).
Now, officials at the Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA) claim they are finally whipping the place into shape. Ron Lewis, a senior deputy director at the D.C. Department of Health, has been running APRA since January. Lewis says APRA has closed Karrick Hall, its residential drug treatment program, and moved its staff to Detox to create an “enhanced” program that accommodates more people.
It sounds like a nice idea. The city certainly could use more detox services for its 65,000 addicts. Unfortunately for a program looking to clean up its image, Michael Martin—the guy APRA has selected to “enhance” Detox—has been cited for the same kind of moonlighting problems as Dr. Bedeau.
Between November 1997 and December 1999, interim head Martin was the program director of the Mary E. Herring Safe House, a residential drug treatment program for women with children run by the United Planning Organization (UPO) on an APRA contract. But for part of the time Martin was running the Safe House, he was also a full-time employee of the District government.
According to D.C.’s Office of Personnel, from July 1999 until the present, Martin was also a public health analyst at the Administration for HIV and AIDS (AHA), making $53,313 a year. (His paperwork for the recent APRA transfer apparently hasn’t become official.) Martin did not return a call for comment.
Lewis says he is aware of Martin’s dual employment but downplays any suggestion of wrongdoing. “He had been doing after-hours work for a contractor,” says Lewis, who was Martin’s boss at AHA before getting promoted earlier this year. “When we learned of that, he discontinued the relationship.”
UPO Deputy Executive Director Gladys Mack disputes that assessment. She says Martin was a full-time employee of the Safe House. APRA’s Web site still lists Martin as the Safe House chief—a job Mack says required plenty of daylight hours. Lewis defends his decision to put Martin at the helm of APRA’s detox-reform plan, saying that Martin has a background in running substance-abuse programs and has previously worked for APRA.
Lewis’s explanation, however, has sparked a toxic reply from at least one APRA critic. “Good God, what are those people doing?” sighed At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Catania upon being told about the program’s new boss. Catania says he’s mystified as to why APRA officials would tap someone with a flawed track record to overhaul an already troubled program. “Why wouldn’t they try to lure someone in who is an expert in the field and pay them to do it right?…They struggle, don’t they?” CP