Hale County WAMH holds open house

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Hale County office of the West Alabama Mental Health Center held an open house Friday to celebrate six months of success with their new day program. If that doesn’t sound like cause enough for celebration, consider that some of the participants have been waiting for such a program for the last ten years.

According to West Alabama Mental Health official Patricia Moore, the 13 participants in the new Hale program were each pulled from a state Department of Mental Health waiting list, where the average delay is “between 5 to 10 years.”

“It’s so important to be able to finally address the waiting list,” Moore said. “They’ve been waiting for this type of program. It allows them to be able to continue living at home and avoid having to enter an institution to be cared for.”

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The program got kickstarted when, according to Moore, “we finally got the funding to come available.” It arrived from the state Department of Mental Health in the form of a Medicaid waiver, and the program’s been alive and well since then.

Moore said the open house was a way to celebrate the program, which has been in operation since last fall, and to let the community know of its presence and impact.

“All our sites have an open house once a year,” said Moore. “We want to let people know it’s open, and to inform consumers or potential staff persons about what services we provide. It’s a good way to raise community awareness.”

Those services have expanded dramatically with the addition of the day program, which runs Monday to Friday for five hours a day.

“It provides individuals with mental retardation with training for the activities of daily living,” said Moore. “We offer support for them and help them develop the type of skills that will let them become productive members of the community.”

Those skills cover a wide range of topics.

“There’s a lot of things,” says Beverly Smith, director of the day program. “We teach them how to do some simple cooking, how to do their grocery shopping. There’s cleaning, how to tell time, writing names and learning their addresses, just a lot of domestic skills. We also do some education. We have some who are very good at math, some who are interested in really learning about computers.”

The final goal for the program, says Moore, is for its participants to no longer need the program.

“We want them to be able to access community resources, to be able to practice self-care,” she said. “We’re hoping they can, eventually, become socially independent.”