Rosewood's Reckoning

Our View: A Troubled Facility Closes, And Its Residents Stake Out New Lives

July 05, 2009

Last Tuesday marked the official closing of the Rosewood Center, the state residential facility for the developmentally disabled. The day came none too soon, given the center's troubled past.

Eighteen months ago, Maryland Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers promised that Rosewood's 166 residents would find a better quality of life in community-based settings. So far, that appears to have been the case, at least for most.

The strain of this transition on some residents and their loved ones has no doubt been significant. For some, Rosewood has been their home for decades. It's no surprise that not everyone is pleased with what has taken place. Group homes can have their faults, too.

But whatever their shortcomings, they pale in comparison to Rosewood's dilapidated housing and its unsafe conditions, patient-on-patient violence and substandard medical care. Such circumstances could not be allowed to continue. The days of state-run institutions for the disabled are slowly coming to an end; the shame is that it took so long for that moment to come to Owings Mills.

One of the keys to this transition has been the creation of a facility at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville specifically to house the 13 residents who were court ordered into state care because they had committed crimes and were deemed not criminally responsible or incompetent to stand trial, and were considered a potential threat.

It was the sometimes destructive behavior of these individuals that too often became a problem at Rosewood. Their transfer to a secure unit on the grounds of a state hospital is entirely appropriate.

The fact that Rosewood is now reduced to 30 empty buildings and a handful of maintenance and security staff is not the end of this ordeal. DHMH has a responsibility to ensure the former Rosewood residents are not forgotten in a month or six months - or ever again.

At minimum, officials need to inspect their new homes and care arrangements with the same level of scrutiny and accountability given Rosewood of late, and they need to do so frequently, particularly in the first year of this difficult transition.

Whether the abandoned campus ends up as a public park or perhaps as part of Stevenson University is a decision to be made at a future date. Certainly, the need for open space in this growing part of Baltimore County is clear enough.

The shuttering of Rosewood ought to be a moment to rejoice, but it's more a matter of relief. By any reasonable measure, the lives of 166 people have been made better - at least so far.

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