Most people, I would guess, are not aware that over 2,000 folks with mental illness were placed during the 1950s at Eastern State Hospital in Lexington.
As late as 1967 there were over 1,000 Eastern State Hospital residents. No doubt their quality of life was not ideal.
During the middle 1970s, with the advances in pharmaceuticals and treatment, the state of Kentucky licensed personal care homes.
These facilities are set up to provide homes for a variety of people with special needs. They supply residents with the administration of their medications, transportation to doctor visits, meals, laundry services, sleeping quarters and a variety of other services.
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Many people use "personal care home" interchangeably with the term "assisted living."
With the advent of modern medications, Eastern State has been able to reduce its population from over 2,000 to about 250. Now they can transition residents to personal care homes where they can experience a much higher quality of life.
Now Eastern State has a brand new state-of-the-art hospital in Lexington to serve patients who cannot live on their own. They do a great job. They get their residents transitioned back to personal care as soon as possible.
We now have a state agency called Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, which seems to have the goal to put all personal care homes out of business. The plan is to place personal care residents in what they call "community-based settings."
What does this mean? It means folks with severe mental illness are going to live, for the most part, on their own in apartments, on our streets and in our subdivisions.
Kentucky Protection and Advocacy is funded by the United States Justice Department, which has threatened to sue the Commonwealth of Kentucky if their ill-conceived plans are not implemented.
There are currently 81 free-standing personal care homes in Kentucky with 4,400 beds licensed by the state. There has apparently been no consideration for the loss of jobs and the damage to the local economies.
Efforts have been made by owners of personal care homes to make our legislators aware and we have not found anyone who is aware that Protection and Advocacy and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services have signed an agreement to start pulling residents from our homes.
Based on my experiences, most of these people cannot live on their own unless a lot of intervention is provided at a very high cost.
Currently personal care homes receive about $38 a day for the services provided each resident.
Who will pay the extra cost for the services needed? Our state budget cannot provide for all its current demands. Textbooks for school students are just one example.
Recent shootings in Washington, D.C. and Connecticut were allegedly committed by people with severe mental illness. Do you want them living on your street without proper care? We already have the infrastructure in place to provide care. Why not put the extra funds that Protection and Advocacy's proposed fiasco will cost into improving services in our personal care homes?
Having been a local school superintendent and co-owner of a personal care home for over 20 years, I know there are some schools and some care homes that need improvement.
Fix what is broken. Don't destroy a few thousand jobs, hurt many small Kentucky communities and, most of all, don't adversely affect the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Common sense apparently is not common practice when it comes to dealing with the issues I've discussed.
If you have similar concerns contact your legislators and discuss them with your friends and neighbors.
At issue: Aug. 17 Herald-Leader article, "State adds to mental health services; residents of personal care homes to benefit"