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Once again, Maryland fails people with mental illness | READER COMMENTARY

A grave injustice was done to some of the most vulnerable people in Baltimore on May 11 by the Maryland Board of Public Works (”Spring Grove deal puts patients last,” May 19). The BPW decided, with just a couple of days’ notice, to lease the Spring Grove Hospital Center campus of 175 acres located in Catonsville to the University of Maryland Baltimore County for $1 a year. There was no transparency and little time for public input.

Spring Grove was founded in 1797 and is the second oldest continuously operating psychiatric hospital in the United States. It currently has 375 beds that are used for mostly forensic care and evaluation, which means there are additional levels of treatment and security protocols required to care for its patients. It is also the home of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, a nationally known research center for severe mental illness. Approximately 100 people are served in their Outpatient Research Program Clinic, and MPRC also has inpatient facilities as part of Spring Grove Hospital.

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This transfer was done with no plan in place to account for any of the inpatient beds, research facilities or outpatient research clinic. By giving away the campus to UMBC, the door has basically been closed for the development of a new hospital on the grounds of the property.

The Maryland Department of Health’s facilities master plan called for developing strategic partnerships to transition services in the 2032-2041 time frame. Why was this moved up 10 years with no notice? What was the urgency? The only clue I can see is this sentence in The Baltimore Sun: “The university’s retiring president, Freeman A. Hrabowski III, told state officials that acquiring the sprawling property neighboring UMBC’s campus has been an ambition of his for three decades.”

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So, possibly a parting gift to Dr. Hrabowski at the expense of those living with a severe mental illness? Once again, Maryland has failed those living with a mental illness.

— Janet Edelman, Columbia

The writer is chair of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center Outpatient Program Advisory Committee.

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