SYKESVILLE — Five teens who left the grounds of the Springfield Hospital Center Sunday afternoon all were back within 24 hours, said Superintendent Dr. Bruce Hershfield.
The teens are patients at Muncie Center, the section of the hospital for those younger than 18. All were back by Monday afternoon, Hershfield said.
Hershfield said most of the patients at the hospital are voluntary patients and are free to walk the grounds or leave.
"We don't encourage people to leave, but it's not a jail," Hershfield said. "It'snot that big a deal. It is a hospital and we have to set up a therapeutic environment, which means allowing patients some freedom to walkaround."
When patients do leave, he said, the hospital informs local police. However, he said, police cannot force a patient to returnunless the patient was admitted under a court order. He said he didn't know whether any of the teens are court-ordered patients, but saidvery few patients are.
Hershfield said often when teens or adultsleave the grounds, they go home or elsewhere and then return on their own.
He said he didn't know whether the teens left together, although he said that wouldn't be unusual for youths.