Program for mentally ill to move to temporary site Shift is latest change for staff and clients of Carroll Hall

January 31, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

After 10 years at 181 E. Main St., Carroll Hall, a psychiatric rehabilitation program for the mentally ill, will move tomorrow to a temporary site at the Carroll County Agricultural Center.

The move is an unwelcome surprise for the program's staff and clients, who have endured major changes at Carroll Hall over the past few months.

First, county health department officials announced in October that the program would close this month. The closing was averted in December when Granite House, a private, nonprofit agency in Westminster, received a $100,000 state grant to manage the program, which serves 97 mentally ill clients.

At that time, Granite House officials said they were close to signing a lease with the owner of the building at 181 E. Main St. so the Carroll Hall program could remain there.

When those negotiations fell through last week, the Granite House staff hastily arranged to move the program to Burns Hall at the Agricultural Center until a permanent site is found, said Spencer Gear, executive director of Granite House.

Mr. Gear said he expects to have a permanent site for the program lined up by next week.

The upheaval hasn't been easy on Carroll Hall's staff or clients, he said.

"It adds to the complexity of the transition and makes it that much more difficult," Mr. Gear said. "Everybody's having to reassure each other that, yes, we will have a program, it will keep going, and, yes, it will be good."

Operating out of Burns Hall could be difficult, the because staff will have to bring supplies and furniture to the site each morning and pack it up at the end of the day, said Denise Ziegler, program manager.

Founded in 1976, Carroll Hall has served as a surrogate family for many of its clients, most of whom have spent time in psychiatric hospitals.

The program aims to help the mentally ill become more independent by teaching them the skills of daily living and providing a place for them to socialize. Clients run the Carroll Hall snack bar, learn clerical skills and take trips to a movie or a ballgame.

The county health department, a state-run agency, closed Carroll Hall because of expected increases in the rent at 181 E. Main St. and pressures from state mental health officials to make mental health services private. With an emergency state grant, Granite House, which provides housing and other services for the mentally ill, plans to expand its psychiatric program to accommodate the Carroll Hall clients.

Last month, Granite House staff members were almost certain that the program would be able to remain at the Main Street site. In fact, the health department had recarpeted and repainted the building, Ms. Ziegler said.

Because of the renovations, Ms. Ziegler said, Carroll Hall clients have been meeting at the health department building since last month. But with the small amount of space there and with the staff occupied with moving to the Agricultural Center, clients haven't been able to participate in their usual activities.

Ms. Ziegler said the idea of not returning to the Main Street building has upset many of the clients.

"They told me they were feeling quite stressed," Ms. Ziegler said. "Not only are we switching buildings this week, but some of the old staff are leaving, so this is a double whammy for the clients."

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