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State: Hagerstown's Potomac Center won't be hurt by Rosewood's closure

Baltimore County center for mentally challenged to be shut down

Baltimore County center for mentally challenged to be shut down

January 16, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Tuesday's announced closing of a troubled Baltimore County state facility for mentally challenged people will not bring new dangers to a similar facility in Hagerstown, a state Cabinet secretary said.

Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, Md., will be shut down once all of the patients are relocated, which is expected to take 18 months, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said.

A main concern at Potomac Center on Marshall Street in Hagerstown is whether it will get any of Rosewood's clients with criminal backgrounds.

As of Tuesday, Rosewood Center had 156 clients, of which 26 had criminal involvement, said Karen Black, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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The Potomac Center had 57 clients, seven of whom had criminal involvement, she said. Nine others with criminal backgrounds, placed by the courts, have come and gone.

DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers said closure plans are preliminary, but don't include moving Rosewood clients with criminal backgrounds to Potomac Center, even at the end of the 18 months.

Steve Berger ? a Western Maryland representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents state employees at the Potomac Center ? was skeptical.

He said three of Potomac Center's court-ordered clients were new ? brought there Monday ? and require 24-hour supervision.

"The department hasn't even come up with any rules or regulations on how to handle these people," some of whom are difficult to control, he said.

Colmers said he has mandated more training, but added, "I was dismayed that it has not happened."

Abuse and neglect allegations at Rosewood led state officials to ban new clients there about a year ago.

However, a bill calling for shutting down the center last year brought a flood of supporters who lobbied against it.

Now that O'Malley has called for Rosewood to close, a lot of time and thought will go into carrying it out, said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, whose House committee will have input.

"People need to calm down and take a deep breath ...," Donoghue said. "The last thing I want is for anyone who doesn't belong at Potomac Center to be there."

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he's confident Colmers will do what he can to help Potomac Center.

The state runs two other facilities for mentally challenged people ? Brandenburg in Cumberland and Holly in Salisbury. Neither had clients with criminal involvement on Tuesday, Black said.

The first group of clients with criminal backgrounds arrived at the Potomac Center in April 2007, said Carolyn Brown, the interim director, who also is Brandenburg Center's director. The state helped Potomac Center prepare by hiring more employees, she said.

The two groups of clients have "next to no contact at all" with each other, she said.

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