Where do you want to fly?
Deb Blumenschein said she doesn’t care if she never works as a nurse again.
Last September, Blumenschein was fired from her nursing job at the Potomac Center in Hagerstown after she publicly stated on social media that the Maryland Department of Health was sending violent patients there.
She argued that the state-run facility was designed to house nonviolent people with developmental disabilities — not the criminally insane.
“There are sweet souls there,” Blumenschein said at the time. “… The other half are the animals that want to kill you.”
She met Wednesday with an investigator from the Maryland Board of Nursing to discuss her case. Although the state declined to discuss the meeting, Blumenschein said the state wanted to hear her version of events from the time she went public on Sept. 8 to the time she was fired later that month.
She said she believes the state retaliated against her not only because of the social media post, but because Herald-Mail Media wrote about her shortly thereafter.
In the newspaper story, Blumenschein said she believed the Department of Health’s plan to transfer patients from the state’s Secure Evaluation and Therapeutic Treatment (SETT) unit at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville would create a dangerous situation for the Potomac Center and the surrounding neighborhood.
SETT patients are court-appointed and many have violent backgrounds.
The (Baltimore) Sun has reported that on Thanksgiving Day in 2016, patients at the SETT unit rioted and took over a housing unit at Springfield.
“Patients threw chairs, knocked over file cabinets and tried to break into the staff’s Plexiglas-enclosed refuge,” The Sun’s story said. “The patients poured cooking oil over the floors, making them slippery. One patient tried to crawl into the office through the suspended ceiling.”
The story said a Maryland State Police SWAT team freed nine security and patient care workers who locked themselves in offices.
In 2018, the Department of Health quietly formulated a plan to send multiple SETT patients to the Potomac Center.
Blumenschein said several patients arrived before she started to voice her concerns in public.
The state has disputed that.
Blumenschein, a petite 63-year-old, recalled being attacked by a patient last summer while she administered his medication. She said she fears what might have happened had another staff member not intervened.
She said the attack on her and other Potomac Center employees — some of whom suffered concussions and broken bones — prompted her to get involved in a Sept. 8 Facebook discussion about violence at that facility on Marshall Street.
When one Facebook user referred to the patients as human beings, Blumenschein responded by writing, “These things are not human they are animals. Don’t believe, come work with me for a day.”
She said she believes her Facebook post was one reason she got fired. It didn’t help her situation, she said, when she also told her story to Herald-Mail Media.
“They’re mad because the newspaper story kept (the state) from bringing a whole truckload up from Sykesville,” she said.
Del. Paul Corderman and state Sen. Andrew Serafini, Republicans who represent Washington County, said in the fall that they had no idea about the department’s plan to mix SETT patients with developmentally disabled patients at the Potomac Center.
After Corderman and Serafini started to ask around, the department put its plan on hold to start transferring SETT patients in mid-September.
On Wednesday, Serafini and Corderman said they haven’t heard anything new.
Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler wrote Wednesday in an email that the department “does not have an update on the SETT relocation at this time.”
Blumenschein, who lives in Fulton County, Pa., said she worked at the Potomac Center for 13 years and recently accepted a job as a cook at a Tri-State-area school. Although the job doesn’t pay as well as nursing, she said she’s happy to let go of the stress.
She said the state told her that she could go to jail and pay a fine if the investigation finds she violated the law.
From what Blumenschein said she was told during the closed Maryland School of Nursing meeting, the infraction was very minor.
Blumenschein said she would be satisfied if the state left her alone and scrapped its plan to send SETT patients to Hagerstown.
“Why is it OK for them to lie, but when I tell the truth, it’s something different?” she asked. “… I don’t have any plans to go back to nursing. I just don’t want to go to jail or get a fine.”