Adult day care centers to be shut Balto. Co. plan to pay participants to go elsewhere upsets kin

April 24, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The Ruppersberger administration has abandoned plans to hire private operators to run Baltimore County's three adult day care centers, opting instead to close them and pay participants to go elsewhere.

But the new plan has upset some participants' families even more than the first one.

"This program was the greatest thing that ever happened in Baltimore County," said Louis Crumley, whose 89-year-old mother-in-law attends the Dundalk center. "There are 150 people in dire need. There was no reason to do this."

By entertaining people with dementia, the centers in Towson, Dundalk and Catonsville gave families a break from the 24-hour-a-day strain of watching over ailing relatives.

But County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III cut money for the program, which had 147 participants, as part of a drive to shrink most county operations and shift money to support police and schools. As an alternative, he looked to privatize the centers.

Including the cost of bus transportation, the program costs $1.1 million a year to run, said Charles L. Fisher Jr., director of the county Department of Aging. He said 41 participants have left the county program, and 30 more are preparing to leave.

The new plan could leave more of the 35 employees and 10 bus drivers whose jobs are being eliminated out of work. Many had hoped to get jobs with the private operators who would have taken over the centers.

County officials said the new plan is much better and add that they have received no complaints from the families of participants.

A one-year county stipend of $355,000 has been added to $108,000 in state money to subsidize the cost of private day care for some of the people using the county's centers.

"It's a short-term cost for a long-term savings," said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for the county executive.

Administration officials said that the new plan will enable them to give more people more help, while eliminating the risk that the centers would close June 30 without new operators in place. But the privatization plan would have generated enough rent money to help only 25 participants with subsidies, leaving dozens more without money for care, Mr. Fisher said.

The new subsidy fund "is allowing us to provide some kind of subsidy to everyone who now gets one," he said.

But several families who use the program -- and county Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley of Catonsville -- object to the new plan, which was unveiled about six weeks after the privatization announcement.

"I'll fight this tooth and nail," Mr. Moxley, a Democrat, said. "Moving folks around can cause problems."

"Dutch's day is coming," Mr. Crumley said. "I won't let him forget this."

His mother-in-law's county subsidy will allow her to continue paying only $5 a day for the next year at a nearby privately run center. Mr. Crumley was upset about the county's policy reversal.

The families are most upset at having to reorient elderly relatives to new surroundings and new faces.

"They don't adjust to change well. It took me six months to get her used to coming here," Victoria Ryan said of her 64-year-old mother, who suffers from severe dementia.

County officials said the transition funding will ease the move to private programs that have flourished since the county started its program 12 years ago. Mr. Fisher said the county has 40 social workers ready to help families handle the change.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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