ANNAPOLIS – Marion Walton has lived in her home for 50 years. She’s enjoyed listening to music, going to dinner and sitting in her recliner.
Now, she is being told to leave.
Walton, 66, is one of 127 residents left at Rosewood Center in Owings Mills who are being moved out as a result of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s order to close the center for adults with developmental disabilities.
The remaining residents and their families either are in the process of moving or are refusing to leave.
Walton’s cousin and guardian, Charlotte Jones, is worried about how the transition to another home will go. Like Jones, many guardians are concerned that other homes will not have the resources to provide the specific care and attention that some of Rosewood’s residents require.
“My fear is that some of these people won’t last as long [after they’re moved],” Jones said, during a recent visit to see her cousin.
Walton now spends most of her days in a therapeutic program doing arts and crafts, cooking and watching movies. During Jones’s visit, Walton was in an old classroom with markers and green colored cans on the tables.
Around the room, there were motivational posters, a treadmill, and several men fixing the ceiling while the radio played.
Amidst the noise, Walton sat quietly, looked around the room, and every now and then, allowed a smile to slowly spread across her face.
Because the governor’s executive order has set June 30, 2009, as the last day the center will be open, Rosewood is working with the Developmental Disability Administration to transfer residents to new homes.
When the governor issued the executive order, there were 156 residents at Rosewood. Twenty nine have left, said Rosewood management associate Keisha Forman.
The decision to close the facility came after several incidents, including the death of a resident in 2000 that generated investigations and audits by the state Office of Health Care Quality. Those reports indicated the facility was out-dated and had unsafe conditions.
More than 80 of the residents and their families have met with a social worker, a service coordinator and other staff members to develop an Essential Life Plan that assesses the resident’s needs in order to help find a new home.
Michael S. Chapman, director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, said he hopes to have everyone’s plan completed by the end of October.
For Walton’s needs, there is much to be considered.
Jones and her mother used to bring cookies to Walton when they would visit, but Walton now has diabetes. On her recent visit, Jones handed her cousin an old stuffed animal that Walton clung to immediately.
“She has the mentality of a 1-year-old,” Jones said. “She has congestive heart failure, and they have to monitor her weight. Blood sugar has to be taken into account [because she has diabetes], and she has no teeth, so her food has to be chopped.”
Jones met with staff about Walton’s move in August and is still waiting to receive the report that will recommend an appropriate home.
“The idea is that wherever she goes has to be equal to or better than what she has here,” Jones said. “Whether that happens or not, we’ll see.”
Some members of Rosewood Auxiliary, a group of Rosewood families and guardians, are resisting the executive order because they are satisfied with the current situation and do not want to move family members to other homes.
“We have about 70 people that refuse to leave,” said Harry Yost, father of resident Larry Yost, at a press conference this month. “The governor promised that he would give us better services than at Rosewood.”
One concern for Rosewood family members is that they will have to more cautiously monitor the care at a group home.
“Many of them have had experience with private group homes and don’t want to send them back,” said Joelle Jordan, who has helped with communication efforts for Rosewood Auxiliary. “If something went wrong, they couldn’t go back to Rosewood. It would be closed.”
Jordan said some people may stay until Rosewood’s doors are locked.
Facility Director Robert Day and Chapman have said that a resource coordinator will monitor the living conditions for former Rosewood residents 30, 60, 90 and 180 days after they leave.
“Rosewood is closing,” Day said at the recent meeting. “We need to encourage families to work with us. Deciding to hold out only jeopardizes the situation.”
As for Jones, she will continue to be accommodating but is worried about the future for her cousin.
“I just want to do what’s best for her,” Jones said, after the meeting this month. “I’m trying to be cooperative, but I’m just not happy with the way things are going.”