Proposed transfer of violent patients to Springfield opposed

November 27, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Also, articles in the Carroll edition on Dec. 2 and Nov. 27 should have said that Springfield Hospital Center houses about 450 mentally ill people.

The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

South Carroll residents are organizing to fight the possible transfer of 18 potentially violent mentally retarded people to Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Members of Carroll County's General Assembly delegation have begun registering their objections with state officials. The Sykesville Town Council is seeking a stay of any proposed transfers and a meeting with Nelson J. Sabatini, state secretary of health and mental hygiene.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The issue arose when Dr. Lois J. Meszaros, head of the state developmental disabilities administration, promised Baltimore County residents several weeks ago that she would remove the 18 from Rosewood Center in Owings Mills. The pressure for their removal came in the wake of an arson and a reported assault on a female minister in which Rosewood residents were accused.

The group includes individuals who have been charged with sex offenses with minors, rape, arson, assaults against police officers and homicide. When they were evaluated as mentally retarded, they were committed to state facilities rather than facing trial.

"Personally, I don't feel that Springfield is the place for people who have been accused of these crimes," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll.

He said he had "made very clear" to Dr. Meszaros his concern that Springfield does not have adequate security to house potentially violent mentally retarded people.

Springfield currently houses 318 mentally ill people. Individuals judged criminally insane in Maryland are housed at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup.

Residents of five Eldersburg area subdivisions formed an ad hoc committee to seek information and to lobby elected officials from Gov. William Donald Schaefer to Carroll legislators against the .. possible transfer.

"I was surprised how sensitive an issue this was with everyone," said Kathy Horneman, a 12-year Carrolltowne resident and member of the ad hoc committee. She said that frightened people began calling soon after news media reported the possible transfer.

Mrs. Horneman said people whose homes are near the Liberty Reservoir watershed told her they often provide a glass of water or a sandwich to mentally ill people who have walked away from Springfield. But they were worried about the possibility that developmentally disabled people accused of crimes could be housed at the local hospital, she said.

Michael D. Golden, public information officer for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Springfield is only one of several state facilities under consideration.

He said officials are considering the six state facilities for the mentally retarded as well as hospitals for the mentally ill such as Springfield and Finan Center in Cumberland.

Mr. Golden said Dr. Meszaros "might have spoken out of turn" in promising that the individuals would be removed from Rosewood. The state government does not have a designated facility for developmentally disabled individuals accused of crimes, but Rosewood is the most secure facility for the mentally retarded, he said.

Mr. Golden said Dr. Meszaros reported after a visit to Springfield that she found the hospital "promising" and believed that the facility could be licensed to accept the mentally retarded.

However, state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll and Baltimore, said a conversation with Dr. Meszaros left him with the impression that it was unlikely the Rosewood clients would be transferred to Springfield.

"The units there could not be licensed [to accept the retarded] without a lot of state expenditure," Mr. Haines said.

Given the state's current fiscal constraints, he said, he did not believe state officials would opt for a facility that would require major spending on renovation.

Sykesville Town Manager James Schumacher said the council was "trying not to make a judgment until we know the facts." He had not received a reply Wednesday to the request he submitted Tuesday for a meeting with Mr. Sabatini.

Mr. Golden said he found public reaction to the possible transfer "a little inappropriate. Nobody cares about the clients. These are mentally retarded people who have been adjudicated not guilty by reason of mental retardation. Where are we supposed to put these people?"

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