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Dedication Held for New Walter P. Carter Center Location

January 5, 2010

For more than three decades the Walter P. Carter center, the only public psychiatric hospital in Baltimore city, provided inpatient and outpatient mental-health services to the poor and uninsured of Baltimore. Over the years state budget cuts reduced the numbers of programs and services offered by the seven-story hospital and, in August 2009, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began the process of closing the aging facility for good. Staff members and patients were transferred to other mental-health facilities, with the goal of shutting down operations at the hospital, located at 630 Fayette St., by Oct. 1, 2009.

At the time, John Colmers, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that the state would explore partnerships with private institutions, including the University of Maryland Medical Center, to meet the needs of the mentally ill. Over the past four months, many of the outpatient services provided at the old Carter Center have indeed been transferred to a new location on the campus of the University of Maryland Medical Center at 701 W. Pratt St.

On Jan. 5 that location was dedicated as the new Walter P. Carter Center. Although the facility does not offer any inpatient services—most of the patients committed at the center were transferred in the summer and fall to Spring Grove in Catonsville and the Clifton T. Perkins Center in Jessup—the outpatient services, including psychiatric assessments, medication, and treatment for both adults and children, remain in operation at 701 Pratt.

Eileen Hastings, a program director who worked at the Walter P. Carter Center’s Fayette Street location and a speaker at the rededication, said at the ceremony that she left the old building “with mixed feelings.” She says that most of the staff members “were kind of glad” to leave the old building because “it had aged along with the rest of us,” but that it was difficult for some of the center’s clients to make the transition. She says that the last four months have been somewhat difficult but the dedication of the new center in the name of Walter P. Carter, the civil rights activist who advocated for opening a hospital that would offer mental health care to individuals regardless of their ability to pay for them, helps make the move feel complete.

Del. Jill Carter, daughter of the late Walter Carter, also spoke at the rededication ceremony. In addition to talking about the legacy of her father and how providing mental-health services to the poor helps keep the community safer and keeps mentally ill people out of jails and emergency rooms, she had a few comments directed toward the other politicians in attendance, in particular, to Dels. Nathaniel Oaks and Sandy Rosenberg, both of whom are part of the Baltimore City delegation: “For those of you in elected office, we’re going to be looking for adequate funding, from the state.”

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