County picks Springfield for rehab center

Town officials say site is good choice for facility

Sykesville

February 26, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County has been reluctant to make public the proposed location of its long-planned residential treatment center for drug addiction, but the town of Sykesville has no such hesitation. At a council meeting this week, town officials circulated a map and other details about a 5-acre site on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center.

The parcel is at the southern end of the 500-acre state hospital for the mentally ill. The $4 million, 24-bed treatment center would be next to the Central Laundry Facility, a minimum-security prison for men that the state built in 1960 and expanded about 15 years ago.

The county is negotiating nominal leases - probably $1 a year - with the two state agencies that own the property. The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has agreed to the county's proposal, and officials expect approval from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The state is also asking for comments from various county agencies and surrounding property owners, which is why Sykesville received a query.

"This is a good location for the treatment center," Sykesville Councilman Mark Rychwalski said. "It will be right beside a correctional facility and not on the highway."

The hospital sits along Route 32, about six miles north of Interstate 70. The treatment center would also be near the state's new Public Safety Education and Training Center, where as many as 550 law enforcement officers will train each day.

The county had rejected two other sites at the hospital, one a vacant building that proved too costly to renovate. The county discarded the other location along Route 32 when neighbors complained that it was too close to their homes.

"The county picked this site because it is isolated," Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said. "It is the most out-of-the-way, least-offensive location. It will be practically invisible to the public. I think it is a reasonable choice."

The council voiced no objections to the proposed location, but one resident said he did not want a treatment center anywhere in South Carroll.

"There will be desperate people housed there and a high incident of property crimes," said Bob Topper of Wimmer Lane. "This should not be located near any population center."

The state hospital and town have co-existed peacefully since Springfield opened in 1896, Herman said.

"Nobody wants anything like this in their back yard, but Springfield is a shining example of what is a sanctuary for a lot of needed services," Herman said. "There are people right here in town who need treatment."

Drug use is increasing among 19- to 25-year-olds in the county, according to the latest statistics from Carroll Hospital Center that show 56 heroin-related admissions in two months last fall. Most of the patients were young adults, and at least one drug overdose death occurred in that period, said Mark Yount, substance abuse prevention coordinator for Carroll County.

The proposed 10,000- square-foot treatment center will take at least a year to build, county officials said.

The state and the county would share the cost of construction, estimated at about $4 million. Carroll residents would be given priority for the beds, but surrounding counties and Baltimore City could send patients to the center should vacancies arise.

Once the county completes a survey of the property, officials will schedule a public information meeting in South Carroll.

"We will talk about construction, treatment and protocols," said Jolene Sullivan, director of the county's Department of Citizen Services.

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