Rosewood transfers opposed Sykesville area residents fearful

State officials can expect resistance from South Carroll residents and possibly residents in nearby parts of Howard County to a proposal to transfer 18 potentially violent, mentally retarded persons from an Owings Mills facility to Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Many of the hospital's neighbors reacted with surprise and dismay to the news that Springfield is the state's top candidate to receive court-committed patients -- many of them sex offenders -- from Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.


"I have no problem with the developmentally disabled, but I have a big problem with the sex offender issue, whether they're developmentally disabled or healthy individuals," said Kathy Horneman, a resident of the Carrolltowne subdivision north of the hospital grounds.

Mrs. Horneman said that after an incident 12 years ago -- in which a mentally ill sex offender left the hospital and attempted to attack two girls -- then-Superintendent Frederick Pokrass promised that no more criminally insane individuals would be brought to Springfield.


But Owings Mills residents won a pledge last week from Dr. Lois M. Meszaros, director of the state Developmental Disabilities Administration, to move the patients.

Those residents were angered by two incidents: In one, a patient who escaped from Rosewood was accused in the arson fire that destroyed Sportsman's Hall skating rink last summer, and in the other, another patient was accused of assaulting a female minister.

Dr. Meszaros was scheduled to inspect Springfield this week to determine whether the hospital has adequate space and secure facilities for the patients.

The patients are males, generally adolescents or men in their early 20s.

Howard County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, whose district borders Sykesville within a mile of the hospital, said last night that he is concerned about the numbers of patients who may be transferred and the level of security at Springfield.

Mr. Feaga said that he has not received any calls from constituents about the proposed move. "No one seems to know about it," he said.

"This doesn't come at a very good time," said Mary Ellen Gearhart, president of the Carrolltowne Community Association. She said residents are upset by a recent incident in which a man who walked off from Springfield, broke into a house in the subdivision, ransacked it and apparently stole clothing to aid his escape.

State police at Westminster were unable to say yesterday whether that man has been caught.


Mrs. Horneman said that Carrolltowne residents frequently encounter patients who have walked away from Springfield. Many are just confused and need directions, she said, but "I'd have a very big problem with any criminal people at Springfield."

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. said that he would have to consider any potential jobs before deciding whether to oppose the transfer.

"This [area] has been sort of a dumping ground," Mr. Helt said. "They put prisons here; they expand the hospital."

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll-Baltimore, said he has not yet heard from any of his Carroll County constituents, but has been checking into the proposal.

"There are a lot of people who are disabled and live in our communities and no problem. But if [the prospective transfers have] a criminal infraction, a health facility may not be the most appropriate place," Mr. LaMotte said.

State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials gave contradictory statements on whether facilities other than Springfield are under consideration to receive the Rosewood patients.


Public information officer Michael J. Golden said that officials also are looking at Great Oaks, a 295-bed center for the developmentally disabled in Silver Spring, and at Brandenburg Center, a similar 68-bed facility in Cumberland.

Public information officer Tori Leonard said Dr. Meszaros assured her that neither Brandenburg nor Great Oaks is a candidate to receive the Rosewood patients.