Why Springfield is Critical to South CarrollThe Mental...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 17, 1994

Why Springfield is Critical to South Carroll

The Mental Hygiene Administration will hold an open forum . . . to discuss its task force report that recommends closing one of three regional psychiatric hospitals in Maryland.

One of the three under consideration has been a century-old tradition in Carroll County: Springfield Hospital Center. The closure of this hospital will have a devastating impact on the South Carroll area, but it is also a tragedy in general for the region it serves.

Springfield Hospital center is the largest public accredited hospital in the state. Stop for a moment and consider its history:

* Springfield has served more than 1,200 patients during the past year, the vast majority of them discharged and on their way to recovery.

* Springfield has the only unit in the state that serves the deaf mentally ill and it includes a liaison with Gallaudet University for the deaf in Washington, D.C.

* Springfield is the oldest gero-psychiatric program in the state.

* Springfield is a major training resource for professionals enrolled in the state's universities.

* Springfield employs 1,072 people; 63 percent of its employees are Carroll County residents.

Springfield serves the counties of Carroll, Howard, Montgomery and northeast Baltimore City. Why would the state consider closing a hospital that serves three of the fastest growing counties in Maryland?

The task force report suggests alternative uses of Springfield. It reports that the Department of Corrections has expressed interest in Springfield. In 1989, the state deeded 719 acres of Springfield's property over to the Department of Corrections, supposedly for a state police training center that has never developed.

Why does the Department of Corrections need additional land at Springfield? How can we gain assurance that they do not plan to expand or build another inmate facility on that land?

The task force report also suggests the residential development of the land at Springfield.

Doesn't southern Carroll County already have severe problems associated with rapid, unmanaged growth? We are two years behind schedule for our middle school and the high school that was slated to open in our area in 1997 isn't even talked about anymore. How can a state task force be so ignorant of our problems?

The task force report suggests that no closure take place without appropriate instruments of support in the community. It suggests the use of local mental health facilities and halfway houses.

We can't generate enough local money to build our schools when they are needed. How can we possibly expand our mental health services? What communities are ready to accommodate halfway houses?

The South Carroll community has, at times, been at odds with the policies of Springfield Hospital Center, but never the purpose of the hospital. We need regional psychiatric centers.

The state should not be entertaining the idea of closing any of the state psychiatric hospitals. Their original mission is to serve mentally ill citizens as close to their communities as possible. The mentally ill citizens of this state are entitled to be served close to their homes.

I think we all recognize the need to integrate the mentally ill in our communities. Many people do not need the services of a large psychiatric hospital.

Springfield, however, cares for people who have not functioned and possibly never could function in the mainstream. What a tragedy, especially for our older mentally ill citizens to be mainstreamed at the end of their lives.

I would like to challenge our elected officials . . . and especially all those candidates who wish to represent us to get immediately involved in this issue. We will take notice of those who roll up their sleeves and jump in on this issue.

Finally, as citizens, we need to turn out in large numbers to show our support of the Springfield Hospital Center. We are capable of mobilizing.

One only has to remember the turnout last spring at Sykesville Middle School concerning the need for a middle school. As southern Carroll County citizens, we are faced with many challenges. We need to remain vigilant regarding the plans for our area.

Springfield has a long-standing tradition in our area. It is generationally linked to many of our citizens. It has employed husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and grandchildren.

Its mission to serve our mentally ill is noble and deserves our support.

Kathleen L. Horneman

Eldersburg

The writer is president of the South Carroll Community Coalition, Inc.

Clear the Air on Sykesville Post Office

Your article of March 8 on the air quality at the Sykesville Post Office -- "Bartlett aids Sykesville postal staff" -- omitted extensive relevant material necessary to put the article in its proper context.

Your story implied that up to the time Rep. Roscoe Bartlett intervened and a test was "finally" undertaken, postal officials had been callous to a potentially dangerous situation and indifferent to the health and welfare of the employees.

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