Potomac Center will not close

December 19, 2000

Potomac Center will not close

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

People who have loved ones at the Potomac Center in Hagerstown are worried the state is going to close the residential facility for developmentally disabled adults.

State officials say there are no plans to close the Marshall Street center, even though the number of residents there has dropped off in recent years.

The Potomac Center has about 89 residents today, compared to about 125 five years ago, said Karen Post, western regional director for the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration.

The population will continue to decline over the next few years as those who are able and willing to live on their own are placed in more independent living situations, Post said.


The decline has worried some Potomac Center employees, as well as family members of residents, who brought their concerns to the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly earlier this month.

"We think our child's getting the best care he could get," said Emmett Abbott of Sharpsburg Pike, whose 56-year-old son lives at the Potomac Center.

Guy Haines, a nurse there for 18 years, said the trend of moving people out of the center destroys the deep bonds that are formed with residents.

Haines said he's has heard horror stories about people who have gone into group homes and didn't succeed. Some studies show a higher mortality rate of people living independently, he said.

But Post said most of the people who have left the Potomac Center have done well. The state is monitoring their progress and doesn't believe their mortality rate is higher, she said.

Most who have left the Potomac Center are living on their own or with one or two roommates, she said. They have help from various social service agencies, the largest of which is the ARC of Washington County.

The downsizing is due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, which said that living independently is a civil right of people with disabilities, Post said.

People don't have to move unless they want to move, she said.

Those who want to move can't be stopped by a family member, unless the family member is the person's legal guardian.

Post, as well as state lawmakers, said the state has no plans to close the center.

Every year the state reviews the Potomac Center's budget to make sure the facility remains viable.

The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly is trying to set up a meeting to give family members and other concerned citizens to air their concerns with state officials, said Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington. A date has not been set.

Agencies that provide services to people with disabilities also complained that their budgets are being hit hard because the state doesn't give them enough money for salaries.

Post said state officials are aware of the problem and are trying to find a solution.

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