Ruxton project is all about money

After reading yet one more letter accusing the residents of Ruxton of prejudice, bigotry and outright snobbery, I am compelled to inject a little reality into the "soup" of emotion-based rhetoric.

The proposed "retreat" on Labelle Avenue in Ruxton by Sheppard Pratt Health Systems is a commercial enterprise, and a very lucrative one at that. Nothing more. Furthermore, the CEO of Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, couldn't possibly have anticipated anything but "approval" of this venture, since the decision lies in the hands of the secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who happens to be Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, his son. Let the readers draw their own conclusions. Details such as this bear full disclosure.

I mentioned "lucrative." Has anyone done the math? Eight patients at $2,000 per day equals $480,000 per month in gross revenue. Monthly expenses including mortgage, salaries, taxes, food, utilities and insurance come out to about $98,000.

That amounts to a profit of $380,000 per month, or a 79 percent return which makes it a venture worth pursuing for the owner. Who cares that the surrounding residents will lose 15-to-25 percent in the value of their homes, while co-existing with a constant turnover of strangers who have no vested interest in the neighborhood?

Bonnie Katz, vice president for business development and support operations for Sheppard Pratt, recently mentioned in The Sun that the rates would be less than their on-campus retreat rates. How much less? Half? Highly doubtful, but the profits would still be exorbitantly high, if that were the case. Imagine the public outcry if Exxon posted a 40 percent bottom line, while devaluing the properties of entire communities in the process.

It is also worth mentioning that each and every "resident" in this retreat is an adult who has already lived and functioned in our society. Either they are ready to do so again, or they still belong on campus. Either they need supervision, or they don't. Any and all interim experiments should be done on campus, not in our communities. To deem these patients "ready-with-conditions" is the same as declaring they are not ready.

To propose this transitional retreat at all is to admit doubt as to the "readiness" of the patients. Couple this with the commonly-known "given" that no man is infallible (including doctors), and we must conclude that this operation raises risk to the well-being of the community. The most we can hope for is to break even on the "risk factor," while property values and quality-of-life for the local residents will surely be diminished. Even the patients will lose. They will "marked" by the rest of the neighborhood's residents. What a great way for the patients to build self-esteem and confidence. The only one who stands to gain is Sheppard Pratt. Big Business at its finest. I'm fairly confident Moses Sheppard and Enoch Pratt would not approve.

If none of the above makes any sense to a critical thinker, ponder this: Anyone who is willing to pay $2,000 (or even $1,000) per day to live in a "fishbowl" truly still needs to "seek professional help." They're not ready for a "halfway house," no matter how you sugar-coat it.

Now, can we stop the useless name-calling? Let us instead cast a critical eye at the source of the injustices about to be perpetrated on both the Sheppard Pratt patients and the Ruxton community, for the sake of the almighty dollar. Both parties deserve better.

William Paparounis, Parkville

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