Group home offers retarded a place to live near families


The opening of a new group home in Northwest Baltimore recently has allowed four mentally retarded young people who had been treated out of state to return to Maryland, where they can be closer to their families and their care costs considerably less.

The home, on Thornbury Road in Mount Washington, is operated under the auspices of the Chimes -- a private, non-profit program based in Baltimore that provides education, vocational training and supervised homes to children and adults who are mentally retarded or have related conditions.

The four young people who moved in last month had lived in institutions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia because appropriate housing was not available closer to home, said Terry Perl, Chimes president and executive director.

Their new home, funded with state money, resembles a private residence but features extra security and around-the-clock supervision, Mr. Perl said. Each resident has a tailor-made program of instruction in the skills needed to be as independent as possible.

Meeting the youngsters' educational and residential needs in Maryland instead of out of state saves $200,000 a year, Mr. Perl said.

The home allowed Michael Warner, a mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed 18-year-old, to return to Baltimore from Massachusetts, where he had been attending Hill Crest Educational Center in Pittsfield.

Mr. Warner was sent to Massachusetts four years ago after he attended various special schools in Baltimore and doctors decided that he needed a supervised home, something they could not find in Maryland.

Mr. Warner's treatment in Massachusetts cost the state of Maryland more than $45,000 a year -- money that was cut off when he turned 18, forcing him to return home.

"Michael always stated that he wanted to come home. He never understood the concept of Massachusetts being so far away," said his mother, Colleen Maglove of Baltimore County. "In his mind, it was just around the corner."

But for Ms. Maglove, who could not afford to visit her son, the distance was great.

"I told them, 'I don't have a home, and I have nowhere for Michael to live,' " she said. "But they told me that Michael was going to be placed with the Chimes. I am so happy for that."

Two more Maryland youngsters now being cared for in out-of-state residential treatment centers are being considered for the new group home, which was designed to house six people, Mr. Perl said. He said Chimes hoped to get funding to develop more group homes for the mentally retarded.

Chimes also sponsors a group home for eight adults at its Thornbury Road complex, which includes a senior living center and a school program for children.

Howard Cohen, a Chimes board member and Baltimore developer whose 22-year-old son, Eric, attends Chimes' vocational program and lives at the home for adults, said the complex was part of a long-term goal of returning to Maryland young people with multiple handicaps who were being treated out of state.

State officials say that more than 100 young Marylanders are being treated out of state because the specialized services they require are not available here.

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