Providing AFC Residents the Chance To Live Independently

March 9th, 2010
Curtis Seahorn in his apartment at the Carson building in southwest Detroit

In Wayne County, more than 3,000 persons with psychiatric disabilities reside in Adult Foster Care (AFC) homes. The vast majority of these AFC homes are located in Detroit.

“Too often, AFC residents become secreted away and feel ostracized and no longer a part of the world,” says Joan Archie, a peer specialist with the Community Living Services (CLS) program at Southwest Counseling Solutions. “They can lose their self-confidence and the will to help themselves, thus compromising their recovery and alienating them even more from the community.”

The CLS program is part of a pilot initiative by the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency to help transform the mental health system. The program places AFC residents in permanent supportive housing. It promotes access to safe and affordable housing where residents can enjoy greater freedom, self-responsibility and connection to the community. At the same time, it provides support services so that residents can receive the treatment and training they need to live independently.

“We are an evidence-based practice,” says Carol Winslow, team leader of the CLS program. “Research clearly shows that it is better for AFC residents to live in permanent supportive housing. It enhances their recovery. It is also less expensive for the state and taxpayer.”

In Wayne County, AFC homes receive $65 – $125 in government reimbursement per day for each resident. Studies show that placing individuals in permanent supportive housing (PSH) rather than AFC homes reduced state costs by about 18%. In addition, the Medicaid costs are cut in half, because individuals in PSH are more motivated to lead healthier lives.

Because AFC homes are for-profit businesses, there is a built-in disincentive to facilitate recovery and independent living. The CLS program educates and encourages consumers to take advantage of their rightful opportunities to choose where and how they would like to live.

As a leading advocacy group puts it, “This education is necessary to overcome the fear and self-doubt that have been instilled in many residents during years of living in adult homes with no other options.”

The CLS program at Southwest Counseling started two years ago and has placed 22 people so far in PSH. Seven other providers are also part of the pilot initiative. In total, about 100 consumers have moved from AFC homes to PSH.

Curtis Seahorn, 54, lived in an AFC home for seven years before he moved into his own apartment earlier this year. He says there were 25 other people in the AFC home and that he rarely had any privacy.

Curtis’s speech is stuttered and his face is deformed, perhaps due to Bell’s Palsy that did not heal. He also suffers from profound memory deficits. Before “getting sick,” as he calls it, Curtis took care of himself in a home in southwest Detroit that belonged to his aunt, who raised Curtis after his mother died of a stroke when he was a boy. Curtis’s aunt died about 25 years ago.

“My auntie taught me to take care of myself, to cook and to save my money,” Curtis says.

Curtis learned about the CLS program at the Go-Getters Consumer Drop-in Centerat Southwest Counseling. He now lives in an apartment building in southwest Detroit that was revitalized by Southwest Housing Solutions.

Curtis says that the things his aunt taught him are coming back to him, now that he is living on his own. He shops for groceries, makes dinner, cleans and keeps everything in order, and carefully budgets.

“It is so much better to make my own decisions,” Curtis says.

To learn more about the CLS program, call Southwest Counseling at 313.841.8900 or email Carol Winslow.

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