Coffee house at Springfield Hospital may close doors Patients could lose place to socialize CARROLL COUNTY HEALTH

November 16, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

For 6 1/2 years, patients at Springfield Hospital Center have gathered on Sundays at the coffee house to socialize over coffee, hot dogs, bagels and candy.

There, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., free from staff supervision, patients at the state hospital for the mentally ill can chat, listen to music or watch football.

But the coffee house, which attracts 40 to 60 customers a week, may be closing its doors soon.

The volunteers from Springfield's Citizen Advisory Board, who run the coffee house, recently told Springfield's acting superintendent, Paula Langmead, that they can't continue to organize the weekly event.

Janice Becker and Dot Bockoven, who founded the coffee house and still run it, told Mrs. Langmead they'd keep the coffee house open until May to give her time to find other volunteers to run it.

Mrs. Becker said it's possible service groups could alternate running the coffee house on Sundays.

"I'd hate to see it stop. I know they [the patients] enjoy it, but it's been 6 1/2 years," said Mrs. Becker, a former member of the Citizens Advisory Board.

"This has just gotten to be a little bit more than we can handle."

Mrs. Langmead said if the coffee house closes, it would be a great loss to the patients.

"I think it's vital to provide some type of socialization and place for patients to go away from the wards on Sunday afternoons," she said.

"Many patients do not have visitors, and it provides them with the opportunity to be in a nice, home-like atmosphere and socialize with other patients.

"It's a wonderful extra we'd hate to lose," Mrs. Langmead said.

Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Bockoven decided to start a coffee house because there were no activities or meeting places for Springfield patients on the weekends. In addition, the canteen, where patients could buy snacks during the week, closed on Friday and didn't reopen until Monday.

They presented the idea to Springfield's former superintendent, Dr. Bruce Hershfield, who let volunteers use Building T.

The hospital donated tables, chairs and a refrigerator to the project, but Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Bockoven were responsible for everything else -- buying the food, lining up volunteers and cleaning up.

Since the first coffee house, both women have been there nearly every Sunday. They alternate the duties of buying the food and bringing it to the coffee house and rounding up four volunteers every week to help them.

"It's certainly been a job, but it's been very rewarding," Mrs. Becker said.

"There's not a Sunday that goes by that we don't get thanked by the patients."

About 30 patients were at a coffee house earlier this month.

The menu includes coffee and hot chocolate for 20 cents, bagels and pretzels for 25 cents and sodas and hot dogs for 40 cents. All drinks are decaffeinated, because caffeine interferes with some of the patients' medications, Mrs. Becker said.

Most of the customers linger over their snacks and drinks in a large hall bordered with windows. The tables and chairs are utilitarian, but the old room is spruced up with plants and curtain swags.

At one table, a man listens to a Walkman and stares downward, while a woman sitting with him drinks her coffee. The two seem oblivious of each other. A man watches football on the television. Some sit alone. Most smoke.

"It's a very good place to socialize, a place to come and get good snacks and good drinks. There's always somebody new coming in. That's about all," said a 37-year-old female Springfield patient.

The woman, who's reading a Bible, shares a table with a 31-year-old patient who is listening to his tape player.

"Everybody's welcome here," the man said. "It's something to do on a Sunday. And you can buy food here that's relatively decent."

One woman trys to sell lipsticks for money to buy some food at the coffee house.

"Two tubes for $2," she says.

The coffee house doesn't give away food and drinks. Patients are expected to pay for everything.

"We try to keep it as much like the outside world as possible, so we don't give anything away," Mrs. Becker said. "We expect them to act like customers, and they do."

On the rare occasion when a patient behaves inappropriately -- if the coffee house doesn't have what he or she wants, for example, volunteers let the person know the behavior is unacceptable.

"We tell them, 'Look, this is for you, not us. If you don't appreciate it, then we're gone,' " Mrs. Becker said. "We've had to be a little sharp on occasion."

For most patients, the social setting of the coffee house has proven to be very calming, said Dot Bockoven, a coffee house volunteer and founder.

"I know how sometimes they can be violent, but we seem to have created an atmosphere where that has not happened."

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