Groundbreaking on new residential facility for mentally ill

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — It may seem like Vera French is downsizing its residential care program, but with plans for two new 15-bed residential care facilities and additional houses, the residential care offered to Scott County's mentally ill is expected to increase.

Denise Beenk is Interim CEO of Vera French. She also serves as the non-profit's Director of Residential and Outreach Services. Beenk welcomed Davenport community leaders and Vera French staff to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Sheridan Springs residential care facility. Beenk said Vera French serves 10,000 people who suffer from mental health issues annually in Scott County.

Vera French already operates a residential care facility, Pine Knoll in Davenport. It has room for 60 residents, though it averages 40-45 people at a time. The downsizing from Pine Knoll to two smaller residential facilities comes because of a federal rule known as the IMD Exclusion. It requires some mental health facilities to have no more that 15 beds, in order to get Medicaid dollars. It's been around for years, but according to Beenk, it's only recently getting enforced by the state of Iowa because of the greater array of mental health services in the community.

Rosemary Washburn is the Director of Nursing for Vera French. The restructuring from one larger building to two smaller facilities plus additional homes is all a part of how caring for mental health patients is changing.

"We offer people a lot of careful structure at pine knoll. The movement of mental health is getting away from that in allowing people a lot more choices in what they do, and how they spend their time, even what they eat," said Washburn.

Vera French assures no patients will be displaced during the restructuring process. The Pine Knoll location will stay open until both 15-bed residential care facilities are open, and all residents are taken care of.

Currently Vera French has six habitation homes. Four or five people who have a mental illness stay in these homes at a time. They are staffed by Vera French. The homes are spread out across Scott County. The difference in a patient who stays at a residential facility versus a patient stays at a habitation home is the level of care they need. Someone who doesn't need as close of monitoring may stay at a habitation home.

"[We] are planning to open a few more, so actually in total we will be serving more than the 60 persons we've been serving at Pine Knoll previously," said Beenk.

The Pine Knoll facility has room for 60 residents. The opening of two 15-bed facilities satisfies the need for care of 30 residents, half of Pine Knoll's current capacity. However, the Habitation Homes provide another option for people needing residential care, so the opening of additional homes will even out the amount of available care to people to its current level, according to Vera French.

Vera French still needs money for the second 15-bed residential care facility, which is going to be a remodel of its current Meadowland facility. The total cost of the two15-bed facilities is $6.7 million. Russell Construction is responsible for building Sheridan Springs. Architecture firm, Studio 483 is also on the project. At the groundbreaking Russell Construction said Sheridan Springs is expected to be done in February, 2017.

Vera French will move out of Pine Knoll once alternative residential care facilities are complete.