New facility on East Main will give mentally ill a chance to live independently
Submitted by Billie Owens on October 14, 2009 - 10:30am
Thirty one adults with mental illness, all currently residents of group homes in Darien and Pembroke, will soon have a chance to begin new lives of independence and a degree of self care.
They will be moving into the attractive new housing facility being built at 559 E. Main St., Batavia.
The new living arrangements are a result of new thinking in the treatment of mental illness: People can be cured, and their best chance at recovery is through independent living.
Living Opportunities of DePaul, in Erie County, is in charge of the $6.6 million project. It's one of several branches of DePaul in Rochester, a 51-year-old community service nonprofit for Western New York.
The project is expected to be finished early next year and will accommodate people whose primary diagnosis is mental illness and they are working to recover from it. They are not MICA -- mentally ill with a chemical addiction(s), said Marcia Dlutek, DePaul's vice president of communications and development.
In addition to the 31 "licensed beds," 11 more units are designated as affordable housing for low-income individuals.
Two aspects of this project are particularly notable: it will provide individually tailored assistance to mentally ill people living in their own apartments, versus communally in a group home; and it operates under the relatively new premise that mental illness is sometimes curable.
The approach is worlds apart from 20 years ago, when groups homes began to flourish in response to the downsizing or closure of many large mental health institutions nationwide. Advances in psychopharmacology and findings in behavioral science research have modified approaches to treatment as well.
"Other modes of community housing are deemed more appropriate for recovery for people living in the mental health system," Dlutek said. "Clients want to live alone rather than in communal living areas.
"This is a new approach. It is person-centered, recovery-oriented -- a housing option that will truly benefit them."
They will have access to 24-hour staffing, medication, life-skills assistance with such tasks as meal planning and budgeting. Plus, the location was chosen because of its easy and convenient access to transportation, stores, businesses and social services.
"It's really going to provide integrated housing for mental health consumers," she said. "We're very excited about this project. It took a lot of collaborative effort to accomplish, between our organization, the (NY) Department of Mental Health, the city, the county and the Economic Development Center.
Located next to East Town Plaza, the 43,000-square-foot, two-story complex covers 5.7 acres of prime city property. As it nears completion, it's shaping up to be an inviting design with curb appeal and solid structure -- certainly a far cry from the drab, institutional-looking warrens historically built for the mentally ill.
(However, it also seems a somewhat "boutique" alternative given the cost for housing just 31 mentally ill people, out of the many eligible.)
Since nonprofits are not required to pay property taxes, the GCEDC worked out an agreement wherein DePaul will pay $12,000 a year in lieu what the city could get from commercial or residential development..
Funding for the housing center came primarily from the state Office of Mental Health and the Department of Housing, Community Renewal Division. The design work was done by Parrone Engineering of Rochester and Lecesse Construction Corp. in West Henrietta is the builder.