Outraged that a state official had reneged on a promise to move potentially violent mentally retarded patients, including pedophiles, from the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, a Baltimore County state senator plans to ask Gov. William Donald Schaefer to order the removal.
Sen. Janice Piccinini said she wants to meet with the governor because "we can't get an answer from Mr. [Nelson A.] Sabatini," the state secretary of health and mental hygiene.
At a community meeting in November, Dr. Lois M. Meszaros, director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, committed herself to moving the patients. But she reportedly recanted last week during a meeting with the parents of children at a day-care center next to Rosewood.
According to Vicki Almond, parish administrator of St. Thomas' Church, Dr. Meszaros told the parents there was no alternative to Rosewood, that security has been strengthened and that the press had blown the matter out of proportion. Ms. Almond attended last week's meeting and the one in November.
Ms. Piccinini said she was "outraged" to hear of Dr. Meszaros' latest comment.
"When you have a state official contradicting what she told my community meeting, it's outrageous. It's going to have to be a public fight," said Ms. Piccinini, who sponsored the November meeting and whose district includes Rosewood.
Last week, Dr. Meszaros told the parents she has submitted a series of options to Mr. Sabatini, but that they were confidential, said Ms. Almond.
Several incidents involving Rosewood patients, including the arson of a skating rink in Arcadia and an assault on the female assistant rector of St. Thomas' Church, have sparked the community protests against housing potentially violent patients.
Rosewood has 23 court-committed individuals. There were 18 in November.
Mr. Sabatini would not discuss the recommendations yesterday but said no decision has been made about the future of the individuals.
"We are looking at a whole array of options," he said.
At the November meeting, Dr. Meszaros acknowledged that it was her decision to place the patients, most of whom are adolescents or in their 20s, at Rosewood. But in the face of the community uprising, she said: "We have made a commitment to you to move the people."
However, when Dr. Meszaros added that perhaps not all 18 patients held under court commitment would be moved, several spectators shouted that all must go. Dr. Meszaros later visited Springfield Hospital Center and Clifton T. Perkins Hospital to see if they could accommodate the patients. She said the Perkins staff has advised Rosewood on improving security.
Mitchell Kolkin, a lawyer representing St. Thomas' Church, said in November and again yesterday that Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Sabatini should acknowledge "we have a serious problem on our hands," and make an "unequivocal commitment" to see that it is addressed promptly and resolved fairly.
It would not be necessary to transfer all the violent patients, Mr. Kolkin said, so long as security is adequate. He said there should be a "one-bite rule" in which a Rosewood patient who exhibited violent or dangerous behavior would be transferred to a prison.
He repeated his proposal that Mr. Sabatini appoint a task force to develop a specific plan for placing all criminally committed individuals at a single state site, either a prison hospital or the hospital wing of a state prison.
Rosewood is a hospital and should not be converted to a prison, Mr. Kolkin said.