Last week, City Paper reported on state’s plans to shut down the only public psychiatric facility in Baltimore city, a move that could further crowd public hospitals and potentially send some very dangerous individuals out onto the streets.
The Walter P. Carter Center, at 630 W. Fayette St. is currently the only place in Baltimore that treats mentally ill homeless, uninsured, and criminal city residents. The state will pay private facilities to treat the mostly uninsured population that has previously been sent to Carter or send them to other state-run psychiatric facilities—like Catonsville’s Spring Grove or Jessup’s Clifton T. Perkins. Perkins is opening a new ward to accommodate the extra beds that will be needed after the close of the Carter Center.
But Katherine Ramey, a Carter Center nurse worries that patients won't receive the same level of care and that more of them will be returned to the streets without proper treatment. The Carter Center is a 28-day “wrap-around” resource—patients stay at the Carter Center and receive treatment for up to 28 days, at which point they are placed in long-term housing if necessary. Private facilities would not go to such great lengths to ensure the stability of their patients, Ramey says. She explains that most private facilities simply discharge patients after a few days, sometimes before medicine has had sufficient time to take effect.
A representative from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says he is confident that the care in the private sector is of the same quality as that provided by the Carter Center, and feels that the patients who require longer-term care will receive it.
The state contends that Carter is run-down and structurally unsound, but Ramey believes that state officials intentionally let the facility fall into disrepair. Normally, she says, a maintenance crew services the building, doing repairs and painting. This year, however, the service was not of the same quality. She believes that this may have contributed to the shut down. —Jamie McCoy