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Lebanon County purchases house for mental health group home

Written by John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News | Mar 27, 2016 10:11 AM
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Lebanon County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention is purchasing this house at 418 Cumberland St., Lebanon, for its new mental health residential program. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News)

(Lebanon) -- The Lebanon County commissioners have authorized the purchase of a house in downtown Lebanon for a new residential program to be run by the Lebanon County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention agency.

The house at 418 Cumberland St. will be converted into a group home for about a half dozen of the agency's clients, said MH/ID/EI administrator Kevin Schrum. The program is based on a model created a half century ago by California psychologist George Fairchild that has proven successful in many locations, he said.

"A Fairweather Lodge is a program, started in 1963 by Dr. Fairweather," Schrum told the commissioners. "It recognizes the importance and therapeutic value of living as a community together."

Schrum stressed that it is not a boarding house, but a home in the family-sense.

"The residents there live together as a community," he said. "They share meals together, create house rules, which they all must agree on and abide by. They get to choose who lives there with them. It is designed not as a transitional program, but people can actually live there for life if they so choose."

Members of the household will be supervised by a counselor from a provider that still must be hired, Schrum said.

"The provider does not live there full time but is there a number of times a week to assist them and guide them in planning activities and helping them deal with any issues that come up," he said. "The folks that live there must be functioning fairly well. We've seen success in other programs and believe we can replicate it here."

If the program follows Fairchild's original model, the group will also establish a business together, but that still needs to be determined, said Holly Leahy, director of mental health services for MH/ID/EI.

Leahy said she was impressed when she visited an established Fairchild Lodge in the state whose residents operate a small transportation business.

"What I'm reading is that many other locations of Fairweather Lodges have been self-sustainable through their business," she told the commissioners. "They really put back into the home, and it becomes much like our families. They take care of one another, and it is self-sustainable. It is very exciting what we could do."

The residents who will live in the Lebanon lodge have not been selected, so it is premature to speculate on what type of business they might establish, Leahy said.

"It is very unique because it is a business that will be built based upon the strength and skill sets of the individuals that go into the home," she said. "So it is hard to say what might potentially happen here in Lebanon County because we haven't identified the individuals that will reside in the home yet. It is going to be fun to watch and go through the process with them."

Several locations for the Fairweather Lodge were considered, said Schrum, but the house at Cumberland Street was a known quantity because it had previously been considered for a county drug and alcohol program that eventually fell through.

"We had some familiarity with the property because of that. And then, as we continued our effort to look at other properties, we kept coming back to this one," he said. "We think it will suit us well, but it does need a little bit of work."

The house is being purchased for $129,900 and will need about $75,000 more to remodel it so it can accommodate five to six people and be furnished with modern appliances, Schrum said.

Funding for the project is coming through the Capitol Area Behavorial Health Collaborative, a program that manages behavioral health spending for clients on Medical Assistance in Lebanon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and Perry counties, Schrum said..

"The funds are coming from the reinvestment program of the five-county group. At the end of the year, if there are funds left over in the program a small percentage can be kept for reinvestment and this is one of the reinvestment projects for our county," he told the commissioners.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

Published in Lebanon, News

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