Monday, April 28, 2003

Corwin House users help to plan
improved services

By Jill Hanning
Enquirer contributor

LEBANON - At the far end of the dining room in Corwin House, a social and rehabilitative center for severely mentally disabled adults, lies a display titled "Field of Dreams."

It was constructed by the people who spend time there as a space to express their dreams, some of which include "to get married," "to be an actor," "that my family gets back together" and "to write a book."

A streamlined plan, tailored largely by the Corwin House members themselves earlier this year, could help the Mental Health and Recovery Services (MHRS) of Warren and Clinton counties build the center into a "one-stop shop" for support and services where those dreams might be realized.

"In the traditional mental health-care system, you treat the symptoms," said Steve Kopecky, MHRS associate director. "As long as they're not on the street corner screaming, they're OK. We try to take a more holistic approach."

Under the proposal, which could be implemented in July, the West Main Street facility would continue to house Corwin House's clubhouse and Jewish Vocational Services programs.

In addition, it would house Mainstreet Wellness, a physical fitness center now located a few blocks away, and Proact, the therapy unit operated by Hopewell Crisis Services.

"We looked at redundancy, overlap and huge gaps, identified those, and took the position that what the board wants to buy with taxpayer money is outcomes, and what the consumer wants is not to spend his whole life in recovery," said Kopecky.

Changes also were prompted by financial cuts. Brent Lawyer, interim executive director of MHRS, said the Ohio Department of Mental Health cut the MHRS budget by $93,000 last year. The organization still operates on an $11.6 million budget, Lawyer said, but some consolidation was necessary.

Corwin House serves about 180 adults, says Bill Heiselman, Corwin House program manager. The average daily attendance is 25 to 30 people, but the goal is to increase participation to 50 to 70 a day, he said.

"We end up in dilemmas about self-esteem and social skills," said Karin Brooks, 50, a Corwin House member from Lebanon. "We lose the ability to feel comfortable, what's OK and what's a part of the illness. Corwin House has done an amazing job, but our needs are not being met in this model."

In a survey taken by Corwin House members during a three-day retreat in January, four areas were cited as needing improvement: job development, empowerment training, peer support group meeting and health education/college.

Some of the immediate changes that members will see include Corwin House's extended hours.

"Members who work in the community get off work and have no place to go," Heiselman said of the current schedule, which is 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Under the new plan, the center will remain open until 7 p.m., and more bus routes will be run.

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