Complex offers independent living
Posted by Compass Behavioral Health (formerly known as Area Mental Health Center) on 12/1/2009
By SHAJIA AHMAD firstname.lastname@example.org Inside her new home at the Area Mental Health housing complex, Garden City resident Bridgette Regan moved into her small, one-bedroom apartment with her television, her bed and her entertainment center. There's also a broken chair in one corner. (Brad Nading/Telegram Bridgette Regan, right, chats with Caroline Unruh outside a new apartment complex in the 2200 block of East Campusview Court Friday. Unruh is the Area Mental Health's program supervisor for community support services. Regan is one of the first residents of Golden Plains.) "It reclines a little better now that it's broken," she said. Regan is one of seven residents of the Area Mental Health's newly-completed affordable housing units: Golden Plains II Inc., which sits about a block away from the AMH's Community Support Services building, where psychosocial rehabilitation providers and case and attendant care workers work with clients. Contractors had been working on construction for a little more than a year on the $2.4 million housing complex that provides subsidized housing for persons with severe and persistent mental disorders. Contractors completed construction at the end of October, before Regan and a few other residents began moving in this month. Regan, who declined to identify her diagnosis, said some morning she meets up with some of her neighbors before breakfast in the lounge area at the front of the building, where several lounge chairs and a television inhabit the common space. Though she's been to a group-home and even found herself in jail after run-ins with the law, Regan, who said she budgets on a limited income of social welfare benefits and assistance from family, likes it better here -- it's quieter and more independent. And thanks to the continued support of staff members at CSS, she's learning about her mental health conditions. That helps her learn about herself, she said. "We have to find our own hobbies and our own entertainment and our own meaning for the day," she said. "And now it's like I have something to show for all my work." The need for more affordable housing units continues to be a concern for social service organizations and city officials, said Caroline Unruh, CSS's program supervisor. The agency already has nine or 10 more applicants, more than it has room for in its facility, which is already half full. The goal is facilitating the transition from a family or group home to independent living. "Not everyone has been living under the same environmental conditions, and not everyone knows how to get to the grocery store, or to the shop. Living independently for some of these residents can become overwhelming," Unruh said. "We want to support and encourage them and let them live independently, but with the knowledge that we're here if they need us." In addition to qualifying with severe and persistent mental disorder, residents also must undergo background checks, not be registered as sex offenders and meet HUD low-income requirements: 50 percent of the median low income, or just less than $19,000 for a single person in Finney County. Each unit in the new complex has its own patio, outdoor and indoor entrances, fire sprinkler system, smooth-top range stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, and two of the units are ADA accessible, with walk-in showers. Rent is determined on a sliding scale, based on an individual or family's income, Unruh added. Area Mental Health serves the counties of Ford, Finney, Gray, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Hodgeman, Kearny, Lane, Morton, Scott, Stanton and Wichita. The health agency received a Section 811 HUD grant prior to opening the 10-unit Dodge City facility -- Golden Plains I Inc., in 1996. That facility also is for those with disabilities, including severe and persistent mental illness.