Maryland, Anne Arundel don't plan new inspections after group home fatal fire in Severn

Chase Cook
Contact Reporterccook@capgaznews.com

Both state and county officials say there are no plans to re-inspect rehabilitation and group homes in Anne Arundel County after a fire in Severn killed three people in April at a state-certified center.

The home was owned by Arundel Lodge, part of the organization’s network of 110 residential rehab beds in the county. The homes are inspected by the county using state guidelines.

An electrical fault in an outlet caused a blaze and explosions April 22 that killed two residents of the home and a lodge staff member.

State inspection requirements don’t specify checking electrical outlets but do require working smoke alarms and evacuation plans. The final investigative fire report has yet to be released.

Since the tragedy, Arundel Lodge officials said they don’t plan to change how they inspect their homes and beds.

These inspections are done quarterly, said Mike Drummond, executive director of Arundel Lodge.

“I don’t think feel like we were missing something in trying to insure the health and safety of our clients,” Drummond said

Fire officials said detecting an electrical fault can be very difficult, so homeowners and businesses are encouraged to keep combustible items away from outlets.

The Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency Inc. is empowered by the state to inspect facilities like the Arundel Lodge group home. The agency is established by the state and enabled by county law.

It is accountable to the County Council for its activities and has been empowered by the state to inspect and oversee residential rehabilitation programs.

Director Adrienne Mickler said the house didn’t have any deficiencies as of its previous inspection.

The agency has agreed to release the most recent safety report but were checking with state officials before doing so. They did not release the report as of Friday.

“Our inspections are already rigorous,” Mickler said.

The inspections are dictated by state law. Residential rehabilitation programs — such as the home in Severn — are inspected annually to ensure safe living conditions.

These inspections check for working smoke alarms, hot and cold water, a home free of hazards and clutter, and other requirements.

There are 274 residential rehabilitation beds in Anne Arundel County — the fifth most among Maryland counties and Baltimore city. Prince George’s County has the most at 398.

These are covered under the state’s Residential Rehabilitation Program, which lays out rules and regulations for the homes.

The homes provide staff support for medication monitoring, independent living skills, symptom management, stress management, relapse prevention planning with linkages to employment, education and/or vocational services, crisis prevention and other services, said Brittany Fowler, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health.

Group homes with four or more beds are licensed by the state and inspected by the county. Homes with three or fewer are not licensed by the state but still inspected by the county, Fowler said.

Anne Arundel County has 12 licensed group homes.

“RRP services can be offered at any location that is inspected by the county or licensed by the state,” Fowler said in an email.

Sober homes

Whenever a program is attempting to provide clinical services and/or is using state money or grants, it falls under state regulations. But some of those programs were exempt from state rules until last November.

A state law introduced by Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, and state Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, brought “recovery residences” under state regulation. The law was enacted in 2016.

Recovery residences are defined as places providing alcohol-free and illicit-drug-free housing to individuals with substance-related disorders, addictive disorders or co-occurring disorders, according to the legislation.

The law required local nonprofits to set standards for inspections and certification as well as renewals.

The credentialing entity is the state’s Behavioral Health Administration.

“(The law ensures) homes are clean and that everyone there is working to the same goal,” McMillan said. “There were quite a few of these places springing up that would advertise as sober homes, but there really wasn’t anything defined in the law what one was.

"And there really wasn’t any way to supervise them to some degree and require them to do some of the basic things a sober home should do.”

These requirements took effect last November. The Maryland Department of Health lists 39 recovery residences within Anne Arundel County.

Sara Burden, who founded Evolve Life Centers, supported the law. Evolve Life Centers operates recovery residences in Anne Arundel.

“Evolve Life Centers was pleased that House Bill 1411 passed,” Burden said. “It is important for the clients served to be able to live in a clean, safe environment that is being properly managed where they can continue on their path of recovery. “

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