Calm the Hysteria over Springfield CARROLL COUNTY

January 13, 1993

Sykesville residents living around the Springfield Hospital Center in South Carroll should heed Vice President Dan Quayle's admonition to Vice President-elect Albert Gore during their debate last fall -- "Tale a deep breath. . . exhale, Al." The level of rhetoric, emotion and anger over the possible transfer of 18 potentially dangerous mentally retarded adults from the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills has risen to such a level that rational discourse has ended.

Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini didn't help matters with his disdainful treatment of the residents and their concerns last week. If Mr. Sabatini had been more forthcoming and less defensive, he might have been able to quell the "hysteria" rather than fuel it.

Juvenile Services Secretary Mary Ann Saar, who is exploring the possibility of locating a 74-bed juvenile detention center at Springfield and who spoke to another gathering of residents last week, demonstrated that it is possible to have a civil discussion about the contentious subject of relocating juvenile offenders.

Local politicians haven't contributed much to elevate the discussion of future programs at Springfield. The argument advanced by Del. Richard N. Dixon that offenders should be confined in jurisdictions from which they originate represents the worst in parochial not-in-my-backyard logic. If we reverse his argument, Carroll residents would not be welcome at the Camden Yards ballpark or the National Aquarium because they are not city residents.

There are certain institutions that -- for better and for worse -- are state institutions that serve all Marylanders.

No community wants potentially dangerous people institutionalized near them, but these 18 adults -- and the juveniles awaiting trial -- are humans and have to be housed somewhere.

South Carroll residents are mistaken if they think the state is going to allow Springfield's 550 acres to be as underutilized as they have been in recent years. It is inevitable that some use will be found for the center's empty buildings and grounds.

State officials and South Carroll citizens need to cool the rhetoric. They also have to rationally discuss what kind of patients or offenders can be safely confined at Springfield.

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