State politicians disagree over retarded at Rosewood Senators Hollinger and Piccinini voice differing views

January 14, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

State Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-11th, said yesterday that she sees no problem over housing potentially violent mentally retarded patients at Rosewood Center as long as security is adequate.

Her chief political rival, Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-10th, is to meet today with Gov. William Donald Schaefer to ask the governor to order that court-committed potentially violent patients, including several pedophiles, be moved to another institution.

Redrawn legislative boundaries have put the senators into the same Baltimore County district, setting the stage for a political battle in next year's election campaign.

Last week, Senator Hollinger, whose granddaughter attends a day-care center next to Rosewood in Owings Mills, arranged a meeting between parents and Dr. Lois M. Meszaros, director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration. Senator Hollinger said that she was "not uncomfortable" with what she heard.

At the meeting, Dr. Meszaros, who placed the violent patients at Rosewood, explained new security measures at the center that include special screens, a new lock system on outside doors and guards patrolling at night outside the two secure cottages where the court-committed and potentially violent patients live.

The measures were taken after several violent incidents involving Rosewood patients aroused community concern. Specialists from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, which houses the criminally insane, were called in to make security recommendations, Dr. Meszaros said.

Yesterday, Dr. Meszaros said that she did not tell the parents that there was no alternative to housing court-committed individuals at Rosewood. Keeping them at Rosewood was merely one of "several" options she gave Nelson A. Sabatini, state secretary of health and mental hygiene, she said. No decision has been made.

Neither Mr. Sabatini nor Dr. Meszaros would discuss the options. Dr. Meszaros also declined say what course she, as a professional, favors. The decision Mr. Sabatini's, she said.

Vicki Almond, parish administrator of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church near Rosewood, said her impression from Dr. Meszaros' remarks at last week's meeting was that violent patients would stay at Rosewood.

Ms. Almond also attended a November meeting arranged by Senator Piccinini at which Dr. Meszaros committed the department to transferring the most violent individuals, particularly several pedophiles, to another institution. In November, Rosewood housed 18 court-committed patients; there are 23 now.

"How many more will there be? Will they just spend all the money to secure another cottage and keep them coming?" asked Ms. Almond. "I don't think they have any intention of moving them from Rosewood. They have just tried to snow it over from the beginning."

In her search for alternatives to Rosewood, Dr. Meszaros visited Springfield State Hospital Center in Carroll County. On Jan. 5, she and Mr. Sabatini met with area residents opposed to moving the patients to Springfield.

Angela Lee, a member of a Springfield-area coalition opposed to the transfer, said that health officials apparently have become such strong advocates for their patients that they do not fully realize the depth of community concern.

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