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Rosewood clients likely will be moved to community settings

January 24, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Almost all of the mentally retarded residents of a Baltimore County center likely will move to community homes when the state facility closes over the next 18 months, the department secretary said Tuesday.

The closure of Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, Md., has been of interest in Hagerstown, where Potomac Center staff and a union representing them have been concerned about an influx of residents with criminal backgrounds.

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers said Tuesday that, as of November, 153 of Rosewood's 166 residents were eligible to move to community settings.

The state isn't sure yet what will happen to the other 13 clients, who have criminal backgrounds and were placed at Rosewood by courts.

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But Colmers said the need for a secure facility and enhanced training makes it unlikely they will move to other state-run residences like Potomac Center. He said a separate facility for those clients might be necessary.

The state started shifting some residents with criminal backgrounds, known as "forensics," to Potomac Center last April after the troubled Rosewood Center was forced to stop accepting new clients.

Gov. Martin O'Malley said last week that Rosewood, which has been plagued with allegations of abuse and neglect, would shut down within 18 months. Colmers called a report on the center's problems "chilling."

On Tuesday, the secretary answered questions in front of a House subcommittee, then a House committee.

Colmers told the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources he would look into a practice in New York, where state employees care for mentally retarded people in community homes.

Looking at a summary of plans for closing Rosewood, Del. Steven R. Schuh, R-Anne Arundel, said, "The one word I don't see in here is choice."

Colmers assured Schuh that a state facility would be available for a family who preferred it.

Del. Mary-Dulany James, D-Cecil/Harford, the subcommittee chairwoman, asked Colmers to come back in mid-February to discuss a separate report on how the state will handle Rosewood clients with criminal backgrounds.

The report is overdue, but Colmers asked Tuesday for extra time.

In November, Rosewood had 156 mentally retarded residents.

Of 30 with criminal backgrounds, 17 were considered safe to live in community homes, but 13 were not, Colmers said.

Last week, Potomac Center's 57 clients included seven with criminal backgrounds, which are kept separate from other clients, the interim director has said.

The other two Maryland residential centers - in Cumberland and Salisbury - didn't have any forensic clients.

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