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City disabled center might get clients from closing facility

February 08, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The Potomac Center in Hagerstown is licensed to hold 63 clients; as of Tuesday, it had 52.
Herald-Mail file photo

ANNAPOLIS — When a state-run center in Allegany County, Md., for people with disabilities closes this year, some clients might be moved to the Potomac Center, a similar facility in Hagerstown.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's fiscal 2012 state budget proposal includes shutting down the Joseph D. Brandenburg Center near Cumberland.

The number of clients there has dwindled in recent years. In fiscal 2000, there were 43. As of Tuesday, there were five, said Cathy Marshall, the director of both the Brandenburg Center and the Potomac Center.

That trend follows a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision that people with disabilities should be in community settings as much as possible rather than institutions, she said.

Marshall said the families of three Brandenburg Center clients are trying to get them into the Potomac Center.

The other two clients are expected to move to "alternative living units," which are small group homes, she said.

The Brandenburg Center is expected to close June 30, the end of the current fiscal year and two years after the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, Md., was shut down.

The Rosewood Center was scrutinized because of problems it had with clients with criminal backgrounds.

There was concern that some clients with criminal involvement would be transferred to the Potomac Center, but Marshall said Tuesday that that didn't happen.

Instead, the state moved criminally involved clients from Rosewood Center to a Secure Evaluation and Therapeutic Treatment program, which is carried out in two places elsewhere in the state, with 34 beds between them.

If all of the beds are filled, some clients might go to the Potomac Center, Marshall said, but "we're very, very selective."

Clients accused of sex offenses or violent crimes won't be accepted at the Potomac Center, she said.

The Brandenburg Center opened in 1978. The center has 15 employees, said Marshall, the director of both facilities since February 2010. The last Brandenburg Center director wasn't replaced.

With Rosewood Center closed and the Brandenburg Center scheduled to shut down this summer, the state will have two facilities for people with mental disabilities left — the Potomac Center and the Holly Center in Salisbury.

For years, the Potomac Center's population also was declining, and the center was rumored to be close to shutting down.

That changed in July 2009, when the center started getting new clients who are "dually diagnosed," meaning they have both mental disabilities and mental illness, Marshall said.

The Potomac Center tries to help them through a behavioral model, she said.

The Potomac Center is licensed to have 63 clients.

As of Tuesday, it had 52 clients and is expected to get six more, including three from the Brandenburg Center, Marshall said.

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