Rev. Milton E. Williams: Helping drug addicts in East Baltimore

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This is Part 1 of a three-part series on Rev. Milton E. Williams, Pastor of New Life Evangelical Baptist Church and the church’s Turning Point Clinic located in East Baltimore. The series will continue with stories about the people who have come though Turning Point Clinic, the clinic’s planned expansion, a food pantry operated by the church, and more.

In the Old Testament, Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of the bondage inflicted upon them by Pharaoh. Reverend Milton E. Williams, Pastor of New Life Evangelical Baptist Church located at 2401 E. North Ave., has a similar charge. He is leading the people of East Baltimore out of the bondage of drug addiction.

Rev. William’s work is being done through New Life Evangelical Baptist Church’s Turning Point Clinic. According to Rev. Williams, the clinic has grown to become the largest faith-based substance abuse clinic in the country, and possibly the world. The clinic recently admitted its 5,000th patient.

“This all started 35 years ago,” said Rev. Williams. “I had a passion for change. I wanted to see the pulpit brought to the people. My vision was to see the word of God come alive from the pulpit and not just another ‘hoop’ Sunday. I wanted to give the people the very rich word of God in a way that was understandable, applicable, and re-teachable. At an early age, that was my vision.”

He added, “However, it was through a lens that was simply fiction. I thought that everybody would love Jesus. However, I found that the cares of the world blinded most of us from Jesus. My vision changed in that the more I preached from my pulpit, the more it seemed people did the same thing. I discovered that the cause of so little change was addictions.”

Realizing the dire need for addiction services along with the shortages of beds and other critical services for addicts seeking help, Rev. Williams started Turning Point Clinic.

“New Life Evangelical got a path of developing an outreach program which was Turning Point Clinic,” said Rev. Williams. “God in His infinite wisdom allowed us to get a facility that would become a methadone clinic in 1995, and it took another seven or eight years to get the seven million dollars needed to launch the clinic. Through the assistance of former Governor Robert Ehrlich and current Governor Martin O’Malley, and others, we were able to launch turning Point Clinic in July of 2003.”

Turning Point Clinic currently has approximately 1,800 patients with 39 licensed and certified clinicians. According to Rev. Williams, Turning Point is the largest methadone clinic under one roof in Maryland. The clinic is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will open at 5 a.m. beginning this month to accommodate the clinic’s working patients.

“There are more people hiding addictions than those who are in the Narcotics Anonymous rooms saying, ‘Hey I am John and I’m an addict,’” said Rev. Williams. “There are more people hiding behind the lie saying, ‘I don’t have a problem, and I can handle this myself.’”

The goal of Turning Point Clinic is to provide substance abuse treatment for heroin addicts and assist them in recovering from their addiction and begin to lead normal, productive lives. The clinic provides medication-assisted treatment for addicts, thereby reducing the rate of crime in the neighborhoods it serves.

“If there is a unique aspect at Turning Point, it’s the spiritual component,” said Rev. Williams. “We were not created to be separate from God. God is built into this system.”

Turning Point Clinic also accomplishes its goal through individualized treatment, family involvement, and support of community resources.

“There are those who frown upon individuals who use methadone to stop heroin addiction by relying on faith, and the inappropriate use of faith by saying that ‘all you need is Jesus’, and all of the ills of life will go away,” said Rev. Williams. “In most cases, that’s not true.”

“He added, “In my quest to point souls to Calvary, I learned that our hands and our feet were laden with early dust in that we need God in the final analysis for everything. However, God uses multi-disciplines to effect healing as well as change. I also had to realize that the Master also uses medicine in our recovery.”

Next week’s story continues with a focus on individuals who have gone through Turning Point Clinic, the church’s food pantry, and more.