Governor will try to limit the presence of dangerous patients at Rosewood

January 26, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer toured two security buildings at the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills yesterday and said he would try to meet community concerns about moving potentially violent, court-committed retarded patients, out of the hospital.

The governor said long-term patients, "who have been here 10 or 12 years" will stay at Rosewood but that others, particularly those under court commitment, will not become permanent residents of the facility for the mentally disabled.

The group includes pedophiles.

However, the governor offered no hope for an early resolution. He said budget constraints preclude building a new site for court-committed patients and said no alternative state institutions are available.

The visit was among several stops the governor made yesterday in Baltimore County.

Sen. Janice Piccinini, who arranged the tour of Rosewood, called the visit a "whitewash" by officials of the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"They [the governor and his aides] heard a polished-up version of what DDA [Developmental Disabilities Administration] wanted them to hear," Senator Piccinini said.

The Baltimore County Democrat from the 10th District vowed to continue her community-backed campaign to have the potentially violent patients sent elsewhere.

Vicki Almond, parish administrator of the nearby St. Thomas' Church, said the governor's visit was "not satisfactory."

Since last summer, when a Rosewood patient escaped and torched an Arcadia skating rink, new security measures, including special screens, unbreakable windows, a new locking system and guards patrolling at night, have been added.

"I think it's secure but we can put more security in, such as a fence, if the community will let us," said Governor Schaefer, who offered the caveat because, as he said, neighbors might view a fence as a sign of permanence.

Two state delegates, A. Wade Kach and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., both Baltimore County Republicans from the 10th District, said they asked Public Safety Secretary Bishop Robinson, who was on the tour, if he considered current security measures adequate.

They said that Mr. Robinson found the security measures sufficient.

As the governor arrived in his "Do It Now" bus yesterday, a parents' group from the St. Thomas' Parish School, for children up to kindergarten age, picketed.

Their signs urged the governor to remove the pedophiles and "don't turn Rosewood into a prison."

Glenn Brown of Prince George's County, president of the Rosewood Parents Auxiliary, and Charles Brietenbach of the Kent Island community of Chester, chairman of the Rosewood Citizens Advisory Committee, said they fear the possibility of violence against "defenseless [re

tarded] patients by those committed by the courts, usually for violent conduct." Both men have relatives at Rosewood.

"If there is adequate security, we can't complain about using the facility [because of a lack of alternatives]," said Mr. Brown.

"The staff seems to be responding to the challenge."

Mr. Brietenbach said Rosewood's budget should be augmented to pay for the rising number of court commitments "because it's cutting back the money for the regular patients."

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