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New Potomac residents won't pose safety risk, families told

June 15, 2004|By LAURA ERNDE

Advocates for the Potomac Center in Hagerstown said they have been reassured that new residents coming to the home for mentally disabled people will not pose safety concerns.

Bill Wolford, the parent of a longtime resident, raised questions about whether any of the new residents have criminal records.

At his request, Washington County lawmakers set up a meeting with the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, which runs the West End center.

DDA Director Diane Coughlin said Potomac Center is preparing to accept up to 18 new people this year who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses in addition to developmental disabilities.

The first two people will arrive this month from Crownsville State Hospital, she said.

Seven others will come this fall from Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, Md., she said.

They will be segregated from the current residents in two of the center's five cottages, she said.

Some of the individuals have been charged with misdemeanors such as assault and battery, but are not considered generally violent, she said.

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"They are not murderers or people who have committed felonies," she said.

The arrangement is considered temporary, until the state can find placements in the community or with their families, she said.

Coughlin recently met with local lawmakers and Potomac Center staff members to outline the plans.

Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he is satisfied that the center will be able to handle the new residents and their unique challenges.

Up to 40 new positions will be added to provide care and supervision, Coughlin said.

Wolford said he is satisfied that the safety of the approximately 50 current residents will not be compromised.

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