For more than 50 years American states and others have utilized the group home concept of residential living and care to house and provide services to the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. Today more and more are also serving the elderly. Tens of thousands of these homes have also served the indigent with very limited resources and these providers are to be commended for doing so much with so little. It is indeed a labor of love.
Many of these homes have contracted with community mental health agencies and other organizations and in some instances have been paid up to $300.00 per night for residential services. This daily per diem has decreased in recent years especially as we focus less on what we once called the one on one residents – but for over a decade many still received an average of $80.00 to $140.00 per night. On the low-end for a 6-bed home that creates a monthly gross income of just under $15,000.00 and on the high-end in more recent years a monthly gross of $25,460.00.
Still on either end of the financial spectrum, there is more than enough revenue for a weekly or maybe even a twice weekly outing away from the licensed home. It could be a simple walk through a local art museum or science center along with a quick lunch trip to a smorgasbord. For some perhaps a movie, mall visit or depending upon the interests and behavioral history of the population, even a weekend at a local waterpark type resort, (i.e. www.kalahariresorts.com, www.greatwolflodge.com, etc.) A trip to the park with staff for one on one board games, etc. can even be stimulating activities outside of the home.
Yet an amazing number of homes, advertising that regular activities are a part of their service offerings are never taking residents anywhere. Some even dishonestly advertise that they provide regular activities when in fact they do not! They just want to collect the money and run.
When an activity routine is a part of what is assured when contracts to provide care are entered with community mental health agencies, their inspections will question such a schedule and should ask to see validation of a regular outings routine. However, these agencies must be quick to snatch contracts from homes that are not investing in regular, meaningful activity outside of the home. When such language requiring a solid routine is in the contracts this is surely a basis to terminate the contract at once. Community mental health agencies should do so without fail.
A provider of care who demonstrates a minimal focus on those being served must be forced out of the business. Some residents complain, others may fear change due to their limitations while some may be intimidated by the provider and avoid complaint but all the while are suffering inside. The greedy provider may not even care.
Even a trip to a day services program aimed at this population could be helpful. Some group living providers will not even recommend such attendance although mental health caseworkers should insist upon it. Some substandard providers fear that residents will mingle with others who have better living conditions and as a result manipulate their way into a better managed home. Providers who are creating and managing a quality environment for their residents have no such worries.
Even if your population is too fragile for certain activities, providers should feel obligated to find what really works.
The community should be concerned. Let’s move as far away as possible from homes that refuse to focus on meaningful outside activity which could stifle the mental health and psychological comfort of those being served. At the same time let’s praise and support those providers who look beyond their own greed and keep residents engaged.
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