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Potomac Center might get more clients

February 10, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Hagerstown's Potomac Center for mentally retarded people was bracing this week for an influx of clients from a troubled Baltimore County center targeted for shutdown.

State investigators have alleged abuse and neglect at the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills in Baltimore County. The state's Office of Health Care Quality last month banned the Rosewood Center from admitting anyone new until late February.

Potomac Center employees expect that mentally retarded people - including some who committed crimes - will be diverted to Hagerstown, possibly right away, said Freida Forrest, a Potomac Center direct care worker.

The staff isn't trained and the facility is inadequate to handle some clients that might be brought in, said Forrest, the president of the union that represents some Potomac Center employees.

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Forrest said people need to know who might end up at the center on Marshall Street, so a public meeting will be held there Thursday at 6 p.m.

The Potomac Center's 42 clients range from late teens to early 80s, she said.

On Thursday, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said the staff might be overreacting.

"I think people are getting upset prematurely," he said. "Things like that don't happen with the snap of a finger."

The state's other two facilities for mentally retarded people are near Cumberland and in Salisbury.

Del. James W. Hubbard, D-Prince George's, filed a bill this week to shut the Rosewood Center down. In a story this month in The (Baltimore) Sun, he called the center "an abomination."

State investigative reports say a person stabbed another person in the back, a person sexually assaulted someone, and several clients injured others or themselves.

The report says staff used unauthorized restraints and failed to promptly address attacks. When a person jumped out of a moving vehicle, it was investigated four weeks later.

"The one-word description I can think of would be 'bleak,'" Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington, a co-sponsor of the bill, said about the Rosewood Center.

Gov. Martin O'Malley hasn't taken a position on the center's status, spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

A letter announcing the ban on new admissions said the Office of Health Care Quality "determined that 'life threatening, health or fire safety deficiencies' exist."

Weldon said the bill probably won't pass, but he wants a debate on whether the center should remain open.

The bill will be heard by the House Health and Government Operations Committee, which includes Donoghue and Weldon.

Weldon said he will make sure Potomac Center employees' concerns are part of the discussion.

On the Web at mlis.state.md.us: HB 970

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