State donates hospital homes Patients will share living expenses

November 08, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The state Department of Housing and Community Development has offered three cottages at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville to the governor's Homesharing Program.

Each of the vacant three-bedroom homes, the former residences of hospital staff members, could house three people.

"[Gov. William Donald Schaefer] asked several departments to see what facilities could be used in this program," said Michael Golden, public relations director for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "We found these cottages."

Prologue Health Services, a private, non-profit organization that provides residential and rehabilitative services for the mentally ill, plans to lease the cottages for a dollar a year and renovate them for use by its clients.

The Baltimore-based company has several projects on the hospital grounds, including a 32-bed domiciliary, or residential, care unit that it opened in July. Prologue has taken over the care of some Springfield patients and receives a monthly payment of $634 per patient from the state.

"Clients who no longer need the hospital structure and can move into a more independent setting could really use these homes," said Howard Eisenberg, Prologue's executive director. "We are targeting patients who can make progress toward re-entering the community."

If the homes are licensed for domiciliary care, Prologue would continue to receive the same $634 payment per patient. However, the cottage residents would not require that same level of supervision and their care could be licensed through another state program, which would not make a monthly care payment, said Mr. Eisenberg.

"Then, our clients would share their resources, which usually are

some form of public assistance," he said.

The lease agreement is before the state Board of Public Works and should be approved this month, said Mr. Golden. After approval, Prologue will apply for a license.

Renovation money will be available through the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Tonna Phelps, manager of non-profit development for that agency, called home-sharing a viable alternative in tough economic times.

"When the state started having serious budget problems, we looked into the old-fashioned idea of home-sharing," said Ms. Phelps. "We found nine state properties and offered them to non-profit groups. We were tickled when seven of those were gobbled up right away."

Mr. Eisenberg said Prologue has several clients who want to move into the homes. Many have the skills to help in the renovation.

"The more hands-on work we can do ourselves, the better," he said. "What we can't do, we will contract out."

He expects the houses to be ready for occupancy by Jan. 1 and to become a model for future home-sharing programs. Prologue's staff would be "constantly involved" in monitoring and supervising clients in the homes, Mr. Eisenberg said.

"This is a residential rehabilitation program," he said. "We will help clients move in and set up an expense-sharing program. We don't just place them and say, 'Good-bye.' "

Research has shown such projects work, he said. "Patients who have been written off can make it back to their communities through this program."

Unlike the patients housed in state institutions, Prologue's clients can receive federal money, such as Social Security and Medicare, which goes to Prologue to offset the cost of their care.

"The nuts and bolts of our program is that for every 32 patients we serve, we save the state more than $1 million a year," said Mr. Eisenberg. "We also have been able to hire 20 state workers who were laid off at the hospital."

The home-sharing cottages will be a "break-even" program for Prologue, he said, but the clients will "get a future full of hope."

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