ANNAPOLIS – The O’Malley administration rebuffed calls Friday to close down Rosewood Center, a day after the state released a scathing report about conditions at Maryland’s largest residential facility for people with developmental disabilities.
A spokesman said Gov. Martin O’Malley will follow the lead of state Health Secretary John Colmers, who “has made it clear” Rosewood is salvageable.
O’Malley “understands there’s an immediate plan of correction,” said Rick Abbruzzese, before adding Colmers is confident Rosewood “can be turned around.”
Colmers would not go as far as Abbruzzese, saying only “it’s important for us to respond to these conditions as quickly as possible.”
“In the long run, we’ll continue to look at . . . issues like appropriate placement in the community” for Rosewood residents, Colmers added.
But that approach is still too slow for many advocates in the state, who again urged the governor to close the Owings Mills facility.
“How much money is the state going to continue to invest?” asked Laura Howell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. “The fixes don’t work.”
The 160-page report from the state’s Office of Health Care Quality found “life-threatening health or fire safety conditions” at Rosewood during an August survey, leading the office to ban new admissions at the facility for the third time in a year.
The annual survey reported penicillin being prescribed to an allergic resident, sewage leaking on to sterile medical supplies, and razor blades, screws and nails strewn about the facility’s grounds.
And “the report didn’t even get to” the treatment and therapy Rosewood residents receive, said Cristine Marchand, executive director of the advocacy group The Arc of Maryland. “It’s only about levels of malnutrition, abuse and sewage.”
The survey did find violent incidents between residents, including one in which a resident pulled another from a wheelchair, tore off a piece of the wheelchair and struck the other resident on the nose.
Previous state investigations reported similar incidents, such as a resident who removed all of her toenails and another who stole a knife on a supervised trip to a department store, then stabbed a fellow resident with it.
“My children would be taken away from me” if such incidents happened at home, said Michelle Hart, a Baltimore County mother of two children with developmental disabilities.
Colmers reiterated Friday that Rosewood’s administrator, Robert Day, will “make progress on those immediate problems.” The state is committed to ensuring that “those in our charge are properly taken care of,” he said.
An outside monitor will also be appointed. The monitor, who will be approved by the health department, will spend 25 hours per week at Rosewood and will “be our eyes and ears at the facility,” said Wendy Kronmiller, director of the Office of Health Care Quality.
While Kronmiller called the monitor “the harshest penalty” yet against Rosewood, advocates were skeptical the monitor can help solve the facility’s problems.
“It’s absurd” that a monitor is even necessary, said Brian Cox, executive director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council. “Rosewood can’t be fixed.”
Cox and other advocates said they will continue to call on O’Malley to close Rosewood and that they will offer their help in facilitating its closure.
“We’re not asking that they get yanked out of there right now,” Marchand said. “We want this done right and with the proper amount of planning.”
And Cox added closing Rosewood could be another chapter in O’Malley’s history of cleaning up unsafe facilities, such as his decision to close the maximum-security prison in Jessup this March.
“He should be proud to do this, too,” Cox said.