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Providing Long-Term Support and Stability for Those With Serious Mental Illness

For Leslie Smith, the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center meant “the opportunity to breathe again.”

“I can’t tell you how much having a roof over my head and having my own room mean to me,” said Smith, dabbing at tears with a tissue. “It makes you feel better when you really need to.”

Since opening in August 2018 in Athens, Ohio, a college town in the southeastern part of the state, the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center has been doing what it was created to do – changing and saving lives.

“It’s nice to have place where I know I am safe, I have a bed, and I have food,” said Amy Shultz, whose chronic mental health issues contributed to her becoming homeless in the past. “Everybody here has been so nice,” she said.

Long-term support

The center is a $1.25-million, 16-bed facility operated by Hopewell Health Center in cooperation with the Athens-Hocking-Vinton 317 Board and NAMI Ohio. It was dedicated Aug. 25, 2018, for people with mental health issues who need more than the typical short stays in psychiatric hospitals to be able to get counseling, adjust to medications, and to eventually obtain permanent housing in the community.

The center is named for Adam Knapp and Amanda Baker, young Ohioans who struggled with mental illness and eventually passed away after falling through the cracks in the mental health system. People who have been in psychiatric hospitals are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide in the weeks and months after they are released.

Margaret Sterling, clinical coordinator at Adam-Amanda and the connected crisis stabilization unit run by Hopewell, said the Adam-Amanda program served more than 60 patients so far with an average length of stay of about 36 days. The typical stay in a psychiatric hospital is a week or so, not nearly long enough to provide adequate treatment, experts say. Patients come to the new center from 21 surrounding counties after having been released previously from a state or private hospital.

The concept for the center is similar to step-down rehabilitation facilities where patients with physical ailments are transferred when they need longer residential, rehabilitative care than can be provided in a hospital setting.

Types of services

Patients at the Adam-Amanda center have three group meetings per day, receive individual therapy sessions, are given medications, are provided with individual bedrooms, and served three meals a day.

“There’s a higher level of need for people coming out of hospitals because of the presence of severe, persistent mental illness,” Sterling said. “We have successes. You can look at numbers all day long, but numbers alone don’t show how people are benefitting here.”

Kenny Mackilltop, a recent arrival at Adam-Amanda, said he immediately noticed a benefit: staying on his vital medications “The stability is really important,” he said, noting how he’s had difficulty in the past maintaining a medication schedule.

Elizabeth Nevil said she enjoys some of the extras at the center, including an equine therapy program and a photography project, including her photo of a mother deer nursing a fawn. “Photography really gives me something to do,” Nevil said.

Even “Sink” Sinkowski, the center’s canine companion, has gotten in tune with the therapy. The large, gentle yellow labrador has learned to respond when people are upset by going to them, sitting on their feet, and leaning against their legs, which encourages people to pet him, calming them in the process.

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