County paramedic never received psychological help

September 29, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Savage volunteer paramedic had been on a waiting list for county psychological services nearly six months when he was charged with attacking two women and raping one of them earlier this month.

James Scott Botschen was to undergo counseling as a result of a January conviction for beating another woman, said Susan Kaskie, of the state Division of Parole and Probation.

The lengthening wait for psychological services is becoming a pattern across Maryland as state and county budget reductions cut into services provided by mental health agencies, Ms. Kaskie said.

"The offenders are really feeling the pinch," Ms. Kaskie said. "This is not a rarity. Unfortunately, the part of the system that you're dealing with, you're going to have a waiting list for people who have needs."

Ms. Kaskie said Botschen underwent a psychological evaluation in March. His probation officer checked with the county Health Department at least five times between May and early September, but was told that staff shortages had created a waiting list.

Howard County Health Officer Joyce Boyd said it's unlikely that a person would have to wait so long for department services.

"I think that's probably not the likely situation," Dr. Boyd said. "I'm not aware of anybody waiting that long."

But department officials said they could not discuss specific cases because it would violate a patient's right to confidentiality.

Dr. Boyd said the department has not been severely affected by budget cutbacks, noting that the agency has filled most vacancies with part-time and contract workers.

Dr. Richard Bacharach, director of the department's mental health services, said the department has had a waiting list that averages 11 people a month since January. But patients rarely have to wait more than a week for services, he said.

The department usually gives immediate services to people who are considered dangerous to themselves and others or who have been recently released from a hospital, Dr. Bacharach said.

Botschen, 31, was dismissed from his duties as a firefighter and emergency medical technician at the Savage Volunteer Fire Company after his arrest Sept. 4.

The former volunteer is accused of raping one woman and attempting to rape a second woman on Sept. 3 and 4. Police have charged him with rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, battery and assault in those incidents.

At least two other women reported that they were abandoned after having sex with a man on the two nights before the Sept. 3 attack, police said.

"This is obviously a serial kind of thing," said Cynthia Ferris, an Anne Arundel assistant state's attorney who is handling Botschen's new case. "All of the sudden there's a clear pattern here."

Botschen was first arrested in July 1991 after an Olney woman covered in blood was found walking near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Anne Arundel County.

He was charged with second-degree rape and fourth-degree sexual offense, but was convicted on a lesser charge of battery.

The defendant was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and five years of unsupervised probation.

He was ordered to complete psychological therapy and a 100-hour community service project, court records say.

For the community-service requirement, Botschen was to "preferably" complete his project at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center or at a hospital emergency room within a 90-day period.

But Botschen completed his project at the Fire Company, handling administrative duties and responding to emergencies, Ms. Kaskie said.

The defendant finished the project by March 9.

Botschen was banned from answering emergency calls by the Fire Company after his July 1991 arrest, but it was learned two weeks ago he was reinstated in January for about one month before the county suspended him again.

The parole and probation division accepted the work at the Fire Company because there are so few places where people can complete community service within the required 90-day period, Ms. Kaskie said.

"We would have just made sure he put in his 100 hours," she said.

Botschen's arrest this month stunned fellow volunteers of the Fire Company, particularly those who stood by him during his first case, said Douglas Levy, a spokesman for the company.

The volunteers raised $40 -- matched by the company -- to give Botschen spending money while in jail during his first arrest, Mr. Levy said.

The company's contribution came from the department's Firefighter Fund, which is used to help volunteers who have been injured or who have had a death in their family, Mr. Levy said.

The fund is maintained by company fund-raisers.

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