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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Training aims to aid leaders of group homes

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A new training program aims to teach operators of local adult group homes how to help their residents have safe and fulfilling lives.

Twenty people attended the first class, held yesterday at Neighborhood Properties, Inc., an agency in West Toledo that provides housing for people with mental illness. The three-hour class was the first of six free sessions that the Lucas County Mental Health Board will offer over the next few months.

“This is a good program, and it's certainly the first step in educating some of the operators on area resources and mental illness,” said Tina Jackson, operator of the Cares Away home. “I hope it will really help people to understand the basics.”

Lucas County has about 60 adult group homes, which have between 3 and 16 residents. The facilities house residents who need help with daily activities because they are elderly or have mental illnesses.

State law requires that managers of adult group homes have at least six hours of training each year. Managers who oversee homes with mentally ill residents need three hours more.

A major problem with the group home system is the lack of a standard training curriculum for managers, a Blade investigation found in December. Training classes can be difficult to find, and operators without appropriate training are less likely to provide quality care, health-care professionals said.

Dave Brown, a manager at Toledo's Zepf Community Mental Health Center, led yesterday's introductory session. He explained how group home operators can get their residents involved in meaningful activities, such as volunteer work, to improve their self-esteem and quality of life.

“Personal empowerment really is at the heart of it,” he said. “I think a lot of people [at the class] validated that what they're doing fits in with the recovery concept. I liked the way they shared their ideas.”

Local experts on aging and mental health spent several months developing the new training program. The mental health board's main expense for the program is a $6,000 fee for a professional curriculum developer, officials said.

Training sessions include information about types of mental illness, laws governing group home management, and how to communicate with mental health professionals.

Sessions are open to group home operators from Lucas County. Several people are on the waiting list for the next training series, scheduled for November.

“This is our starting point,” said Pamela Dunn, manager of community support for the mental health board. “It should just get better and better as we get input from people taking the classes.”



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