- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

BALTIMORE — Maryland State Police yesterday said a patient at a state hospital for the mentally retarded stabbed another patient with a knife he stole from a nearby store, an incident that prompted calls by union leaders for additional training and protections for workers at state hospitals.

Donte Jones was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and possession of a deadly weapon with intent to injure after the attack Wednesday night at the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, state police said.

He was being held without bail.

The victim, Ronald Keiser, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

According to police, Mr. Keiser was in a bathroom when Mr. Jones approached him and stabbed him in the back. Mr. Jones had permission to leave the Rosewood Center campus, and he stole the knife while he was out, police said.

The Rosewood Center is licensed to serve 257 adults. Most of the patients are from central Maryland, but the center also accepts patients referred by courts around the state for evaluation or treatment.

Mr. Jones was referred by a court, said Sue Esty, interim executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92, the union representing state hospital employees.

Miss Esty did not know what led to the referral.

The union is calling for an evaluation of hospital policies relating to patients referred by courts, known as forensic patients.

In addition to Wednesday’s stabbing, Lee McDuffy, an employee at Spring Grove Hospital Center, a state psychiatric facility, died last month after helping to restrain and sedate a combative patient. That patient was also a court referral, Miss Esty said.

The number of forensic patients is increasing at both the Rosewood Center and Spring Grove, and the state has not addressed how that change in the patient population is affecting employees and other patients, she said.

“That’s why we really think there needs to be an evaluation of this process, because a number of the clients at Rosewood are extremely dangerous people,” Miss Esty said. “The staff there find it disturbing. For example, they’re not allowed to search a client without [the client’s] permission.”

Barry Chapman, president of the Baltimore County branch of the union, said he and other union leaders have had productive discussions with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about implementing new training for workers who have to deal with dangerous patients.

“They’re basically correctional officers when they’re dealing with people coming from prison,” Mr. Chapman said. “It’s not in their job description.”

Mr. Chapman said he spoke with several Rosewood Center employees yesterday morning and that they were “quite shaken” about the stabbing.

John Hammond, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the department would respond publicly today to the union’s concerns. He added that Rosewood Center was conducting an internal investigation of the stabbing.

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