The decision to close the improbably named Golden Years Rest Home in Letcher County was the right one.
But it does raise a troubling question: What's the alternative for Kentuckians who have chronic mental illnesses and are not from independently wealthy families?
Granted, Golden Years is an extreme example of a badly run personal care home. In addition to chronic neglect and occasional abuse of residents and criminal charges that a former administrator illegally pocketed $500,000, the facility was hopelessly insolvent.
In other ways, though, Golden Years is typical of personal care homes. These facilities were never designed to house the mentally ill, but they have become a dumping ground for Kentuckians who have mental illnesses and other mental disabilities.
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There are few, if any, planned activities for residents, little to no therapeutic component and no support network to help residents learn coping skills and get better. Like most long-term care facilities, personal care homes are understaffed.
It's not just residents of personal care homes who are going without mental health services, though. Such services are sorely lacking across Kentucky.
With better support and case management, many of the people who end up in personal care homes could live on their own in the community.
There are better models and practical alternatives, even here.
In Louisville, the nonprofit Wellspring provides housing and rehabilitative services each year to 600 adults who have severe and persistent mental illness. Wellspring offers its clients transitional, supported and independent housing.
Learning about Wellspring — and how to duplicate the model elsewhere — would be a good starting point for lawmakers who want to prevent another tragedy like the death of Larry Lee.
Lee, 32, had a brain injury, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He was also diabetic. In August, he wandered away from a personal care home in Falmouth where he had lived a short time.
After an exhaustive search that included lawmakers from his hometown of Lebanon, his body was found a month later not far from the Falmouth Nursing Home near the Licking River.
He was the second Kentuckian to die in recent years after going missing from a personal care home. At Golden Years, the Jenkins facility that's being shut down, the staff reportedly waited 17 hours before reporting that Larry Bruce Huff, 64, was missing in 2007. Huff, who had schizophrenia, froze to death.
The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services is helping find new homes for the 27 residents of Golden Years Rest Home. Finding the right place for these Kentuckians will be about as easy as winning the lottery.
We should — and can — do better.