Concerned that the Maryland budget crunch might prompt the state to close Spring Grove mental hospital in Catonsville, Baltimore County health officials this week are sending two separate letters to county government leaders urging that Spring Grove be kept open.
The health officials said they fear that the grim economic climate, combined with the trend toward removing mental patients from institutions and placing them in community-based treatment programs, could persuade state officials to close one of the three large state hospitals and consolidate the remaining two.
The three hospitals are 197-year-old Spring Grove, Crownsville in Anne Arundel County and Springfield in Carroll County.
Two months ago, the Maryland Association of Psychiatric Support Services, an umbrella organization of 50 community-based mental health programs throughout the state, published a study that recommended closing one of the big three hospitals and shifting part of the savings to the community-based programs, MAPSS Executive Director Herbert Cromwell said.
Baltimore County health officials are concerned that MAPSS members will lobby Maryland lawmakers to take just such an action, and that the hospital that would close would be Spring Grove.
Mr. Cromwell said MAPSS has not specified which of the three hospitals it believes should be closed.
One of the letters from the county health officials was signed by Dr. Cornelius J. Feehley, chairman of the county's Mental Health Advisory Council. It was mailed yesterday to County Executive Roger B. Hayden.
The other one, signed by Dr. Samuel Havrilak, chairman of the county's Board of Health, is to be sent later this week to Mr. Hayden and to members of the county's legislative delegation, said Dr. Margaret L. Sherrard, director of the county's Department of Health.
The purpose of both letters is to encourage county government leaders to work to save Spring Grove, Dr. Sherrard said, citing statistics showing that most Spring Grove patients come from the county.
"We want to take action before any formal steps might be taken against Spring Grove," she said.
Spring Grove received $46.2 million in state funds for fiscal year 1992, which ends June 30. It is scheduled to get $48 million for fiscal 1993, said Michael Golden, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
From July 1990 through June 1991, about half of Spring Grove's 2,189 patients were Baltimore County residents. Others came from Prince George's County, Harford County and Baltimore. The hospital serves about 110 patients a month, 60 of them from Baltimore County.