A group home partnership’s press conference Friday of a new facility for five individuals with disabilities was more than ribbon cutting. It stands for hope.
The facility is a piece in the ongoing puzzle to ease local concerns for individuals with disabilities in the wake of the Southwestern Virginia Training Center’s closing in Hillsville (with eight such homes currently being established by the firm in Southwest Virginia). The “Good Neighbor” company along with state and local officials held a press conference/ribbon cutting for the renovated home, which is one of eight homes in southwestern Virginia.
“We are excited. It’s been a great adventure out here. It’s been a huge team effort. Also the Training Center, I’ve worked so closely with the discharge coordinators. It’s been wonderful. What we are doing out here we’ve never ever done this quickly,” said Good Neighbor Operations Director Heath Pond. “That was one of the things to take into account when we did this. We knew we could do it quickly but we didn’t want to lose the quality. That was the most important piece to us – finding homes. We love to have wonderful homes for our individuals. We wanted it to be as person centered as possible. The biggest thing is to see the smiles on the individuals’ faces. It’s been an awesome experience.”
Pond said they have five homes up and running and were licensed on April 17 for the first home. Former training center residents will be given integrated care within the community in a home setting at the group home at the corner of Archa Street and 315 Jones Road. Individuals on the guest list of the more than 30 attending included residents of the new home and their families, and Mary Bea Eaton, CEO of Scioto Properties.
The ceremony recognized the opening of several homes in Southwest Virginia specifically for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities moved from the recently-closed training center.
“Today is a big step for us all in the recognition of humanity. Humanity which is being re-established by the understanding that our physical and mental makeup should not define where we can and cannot live in the community.” said Matt Marek, Executive Director of Good Neighbor. “One of my favorite sayings is we are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are all spiritual beings on a human journey.”
Marek said changing the world cannot be taught because it is a feeling one must possess. He said he felt you cannot teach someone the resiliency to change the world, how to insure when you want to give up to look for that something that helps you push through.
“I always tell people I did not choose the work I am doing. I am in this field because of the feeling I have,” Marek said. “I believe the field chose me. I sincerely believe we are all standing here right now because the collective spirit of the human beings of those who resided in our state institutions over the many decades have brought us here together today.”
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Dr. Hughes Melton thanked participants for the hope the home represents. He said it represents hope in three areas, the hope given to residents and families with community life experiences, the hope which comes with the caregivers and teams to make this possible, and the progress that has made a path to help others.
“It’s growing within our state to meet the need of our population with disabilities,” said Melton. “I think the progress we have seen here, for the state, means we need to travel a similar journey for our seriously mentally ill population like we have for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Parent Vikki McCarty told participants the process had not been an easy one for parents and that she is a “hard core advocate” for her son, Darrin, and others.
“I’ve asked for a lot for my son. And I have to say they have come through with everything I’ve asked,” said McCarty. “And I’m not easy to please. I have to say my son and I came from Lee County, Virginia, which is very limited in resources. I came here in 2011 because we didn’t have any resources. We’ve had a lot of providers who said they were going to come here and on the spur of the moment didn’t. It’s been very difficult for us. We are so happy here. It’s been a blessing and a load off our shoulders.”
According to he firm’s website, Good Neighbor’s mission is “to support individuals in achieving a life of opportunity, independence and growth through personalized and holistic approach to health care.” Services include homes and day programs for adults with disabilities as well as psychiatry, therapy, in-home counseling, and other mental health supports throughout Virginia.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.