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2 facilities will help mentally ill adults

(ran PW, PS editions)

Pasco County now has a home for mentally ill adults who don't need hospitalization but aren't yet ready to live on their own.

Morton Plant Mease will open in May the Wildcat Lane Home, for those between the ages of 18 and 55 who want to transition into independent living.

The home has room for six residents who have disabilities because of mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia. Some of them may be outpatients at the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute, the New Port Richey hospital for the mentally ill also operated by Morton Plant Mease.

At the home, residents will learn how to cope with their illnesses and everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. On average, they will stay for 18 months.

The home is the first of its kind in Pasco County. At the Hacienda in New Port Richey, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services operates a similar program for people 55 and older.

"There are so many people living out there that don't have the 24-hour supervision and support to help them stay out of the hospital and stable in the community," said Kathy Chaykosky, manager of community support services at the Harbor. Before this program, the patients would have gone to assisted living facilities for the mentally ill, which would not have prepared them for independent living. The home is structured to prepare patients to live independently.

The Wildcat Lane Home will be open to patients who live on Social Security disability for their mental illnesses. Medicaid and state funding cover the $722 monthly cost for each resident.

The 5,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, a community room and a library. Professional staff will be on duty 24 hours a day. The house, off State Road 52, previously functioned as the RAP house, a shelter for runaway kids operated by Youth and Family Alternatives. Morton Plant Mease spent $75,000 to renovate the house.

"The need is tremendous" for Morton Plant's program, said Harvey Landress, vice president of planning with Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services.

On April 1, Morton Plant Mease plans to open a transitional apartment complex for 18- to 55-year-olds, off Portillo Road in Spring Hill. The 15-unit complex will house mentally ill residents who want more independent living than they would have at the Wildcat Lane Home, with access to support services. Harbor staff members will regularly check in with its Spring Hill residents.

The new apartments, the second of their kind in Hernando, are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Morton Plant Mease already manages seven of those complexes in Pasco County.

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