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Evaluating Rosewood Center

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland legislators are moving toward passage of a bill that would require the state's health department to develop a plan for the Rosewood Center, a state-run facility for disabled adults where investigators have documented numerous cases of residents being harmed.

The bill, which originally would have forced the closure of Rosewood within three years, has been rewritten to require that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene review each patient's situation and develop a cost analysis and timetable for transitioning him or her to the community or to other facilities. The agency would have to make a nonbinding recommendation to the General Assembly by the end of this year.

"Everything down here happens in little steps," said Del. James W. Hubbard, a Prince George's County Democrat and sponsor of the bill. "But this is a step toward having this administration come back to us and say what are the costs of closure.

"They will tell us how can we get people out of there and into the community, where we can spend more money on programs than we do on brick and mortar," Hubbard said.

In recent years, advocates for the disabled, government officials and Gov. Martin O'Malley's transition team have recommended that Rosewood, a 300-acre campus in Owings Mills, be shuttered. In January, the health department banned all new admissions after state investigators found repeated instances in which staff failed to protect residents from violent episodes.

Rosewood, founded more than a century ago as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble-Minded, houses about 200 people.

The bill, which passed the House of Delegates last month and received preliminary approval in the Senate yesterday, also would require the health department to recommend what to do with residents who were committed there by the courts and identify for state employees at Rosewood other available job opportunities.

In conjunction with that study, the Maryland Department of Planning would explore alternative uses for the property, and consider the need for open space at the facility.

Several people with disabilities appeared at a brief legislative hearing this week in Annapolis to support the bill. James Devore said he was grateful to have left Rosewood several years ago because he couldn't leave the grounds and didn't get paid when he worked. He now lives in an apartment in Towson and has two jobs.

"I've got more freedom than I ever have," he said.

Other former residents submitted written testimony in favor of the bill, including Preston Perkins, who has moved into a group home in Parkville. "I don't like that place," he said, referring to Rosewood. "It makes me angry and sad."

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