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Announcement due on Rosewood

The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he plans to announce soon whether he will close the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.

A coalition of advocates for the developmentally disabled has lobbied for years to close Rosewood, saying it unnecessarily segregates people who could be better served in group homes. Brian Cox, executive director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, said closure would be "incredibly welcome" news.

O'Malley said at a news conference that he will visit the institution -- home to 165 mentally retarded residents and the subject of numerous critical state reports -- "sometime very soon." Asked whether he plans to close Rosewood, O'Malley said, "We'll have more on that shortly."

Last month, the state's Office of Health Care Quality issued the latest in a string of reports critical of Rosewood. In a two-month period, the office found 130 incidents of "abuse, neglect, mistreatment and injuries of unknown origins."

A few dozen of Rosewood's residents are committed there by a court, accused of crimes but deemed unfit for trial because of their disabilities. The remainder of the institution no longer accepts new admissions but houses severely disabled residents who have lived there for decades. Their families are fighting to keep the institution open.

In many cases, elderly parents have middle-aged children who have lived at Rosewood all their lives. Those parents worry that their children wouldn't survive in a group home -- particularly after the parents are no longer around to advocate for them.

"I would be devastated if they closed Rosewood," said Glenn Brown, 80, vice president of the Rosewood Auxiliary. His daughter, Jean, 49, has lived at the institution since she was 7.

Brown and others are concerned about inferior care in group homes. They point to a study that shows higher mortality rates in group homes..

Neither Cox nor Brown know what O'Malley plans to do with the institution.

"I've heard negative rumors forever," Brown said. "But the land there is very valuable and there's a great effort to close it."

Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, has said that he believes the O'Malley administration is moving toward closing Rosewood.

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