OWINGS MILLS – Legislators touring Rosewood Center demanded improvements at Maryland’s largest residential facility for people with developmental disabilities, just two weeks after the state released a scathing report on conditions there.
Rosewood Director Robert Day, who took over the facility May 30, agreed that conditions at the facility are “completely unacceptable,” but also asked members of health subcommittees in both the House of Delegates and the Senate for more time to make changes.
His call met with skepticism.
“It’s troubling that more couldn’t have been done” during Day’s tenure to correct deficiencies found in the state’s August survey of Rosewood, said Delegate Mary-Dulany James, D-Harford, chairwoman of the House subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
The state’s Office of Health Care Quality found “life-threatening health or fire safety conditions” at Rosewood, including sewage leaks, dangerous prescription errors and sometimes violent behavior by the facility’s residents.
Day said he knew Rosewood “had problems for a long time,” but added he had already hired behavioral specialists to help create positive environments for residents and made direct care staff more involved in residents’ treatment.
“We do need time, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Day said.
And state Health Secretary John Colmers added that if Day had been given another six to eight weeks at the helm before the survey was conducted, fewer infractions would have been found.
Senate Majority Leader Edward Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore County, said he would give Day “the benefit of the doubt” as he tries to turn Rosewood around.
James said she’ll not be so patient.
“I’m skeptical about the progress claimed to have been made,” she said. “I’d like to see evidence of this progress” in the six-to-eight-week window Colmers cited.
James also said “everything’s on the table” when considering Rosewood’s future, including closing the facility and selling off portions of the 300-acre campus, which houses 168 residents.
Advocates have long urged the state to close the Owings Mills facility, while parents of Rosewood residents are among its most vocal supporters.
Its services, “geared to making someone independent,” are available in the community, and an institution is not needed to deliver them, said Nancy Pineles, an attorney for the Maryland Disability Law Center.
But Harry Yost, whose son has lived at Rosewood for 45 years, said he sleeps well knowing his son is at the facility and that advocates who just “want to close Rosewood down” are making a big deal over “leaking pipes.”
The General Assembly mandated last session that the state develop individual plans for Rosewood residents, including whether community placement would be beneficial. The first version of the bill, introduced by Del. James Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, would have closed Rosewood.
Day admits that institutions are an idea “that has come and gone” within the developmental disabilities field. But he added that the debate over whether to close Rosewood was a public policy decision.
The government “decides what the system should look like,” Day said.
His job, Day said, is to ensure residents “have a good quality of life and a life that makes sense to them.”