12 Days of Caring, New Visions services to adults with chronic mental illnesses

New Visions.org

PennLive, http://www.pennlive.com/, the online version of the Harrisburg Patriot News, just published a wonderful article about the agency I work for, New Visions, Inc.  The link to the article:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/12/12_days_of_caring_new_visions.html

Here is the article.  We thank the Patriot News and the reporter, Dan Miller, for an excellent article.

12 Days of Caring: New Visions provides housing, services to adults

with chronic mental illness

DAN MILLER, The Patriot-NewsBy DAN MILLER, The Patriot-News 
on December 11, 2012 at 3:40 PM, updated December 11, 2012 at 3:41 PM

People with mental illness usually don’t fit the stereotype of someone sitting or sleeping on a bench, mumbling incoherently.

Instead, they may be the person in the grocery store aisle, trying like you to figure out the best bargain. It could be the person next to you in a restaurant.

Lots of adults in the midstate have chronic mental illness but lead normal lives – many holding down a job and contributing to society – thanks to nonprofit groups like New Visions.

Martha Vaughan, of Carlisle, receives services from New Visions. 11/21/2012DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News

New Visions provides a variety of supportive services to adults with chronic mental illness. Many are folks living on their own, who just need a little outside help to keep on track with medications and other challenges of daily life.

In other cases, New Visions literally provides the roof over their heads. And without that, it’s hard to take care of much of anything else.

New Visions has been Martha Vaughan’s shelter from the storm since shortly after the Harrisburg State Hospital closed in 2006.

She said she was too well to be sent to another state hospital. She didn’t have a place to live. She didn’t know where she would go.

A New Visions team came to the state hospital to interview Vaughan and other residents, assess their needs and see about fitting them into an evolving system of community-based care facilities that counties were creating for those being released from the hospitals.

For a time she lived in a group home near the state hospital, while New Visions brought up to code and furnished an apartment building the nonprofit had acquired in Carlisle.

That building became Vaughan’s home, and it’s been home ever since.

She shares her small but tidy third-floor apartment with Holly, Vaughan’s 13-year-old cat.

In the state hospital, she shared a room with five other people and could only go out at certain times. She couldn’t have her own phone or her own TV.

Now, Vaughan comes and goes as she pleases. She even flew to Phoenix by herself to visit her brother for three weeks, although she needed permission from a New Visions caseworker.

New Visions provides activities for Vaughan and others who live in the apartment building in Carlisle. The caseworkers take them out for groceries and to do laundry, but also for more fun things like shopping, a picnic or even a trip to Hersheypark.

This wasn’t the course Vaughan had planned for life. She grew up in the midwest and while in sixth grade moved to Chatham, N.J. Her dad was in insurance and worked on Wall Street.

Vaughan came to Carlisle through Dickinson College. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and minored in philosophy. But drugs and alcohol took her down.

Vaughan said she’s been clean since 1987 but suffers from bipolar disorder.

“Some people think if you are sick enough to get all these benefits, like Social Security and food stamps, then why aren’t you in the hospital?” Vaughan said. “Every time I’ve started a job I’ve relapsed. This facility is like a buffer to me. I don’t want to spend my life in a state hospital. The hospital should not be a place where people live their lives out.”

Vaughan wants to be an artist. Her paintings hang on the wall over her kitchen table.

There’s a guy who lives in her apartment building who also wants to be an artist, but he’s shy.

“I’m trying to get him to get his paintings out of the closet, so we can trade,” Vaughan said.

She also likes photography, and showed an exhibit of her works during an event in Carlisle a few years back. Now she’s trying to save her money to buy a good camera.

She sings in the choir and is active at St. Patrick’s Church.

Vaughan said without New Visions she’d be homeless, or worse.

Last summer she became an advocate, going to a public meeting in Middlesex Twp. to protest against cuts to state mental health services funding.

She worries about staff cutbacks, saying most New Visions staff she knows work two jobs. New Visions owns the property next to her apartment building and wants to use the space for activities, but can’t afford to do anything.

“They are just stopped down in their tracks because of funding,” Vaughan said.

Craig Cordell, executive director of New Visions, said the counties that are the major source of funding for the nonprofit made up for some of the state cutbacks, because of the importance of the housing that New Visions provides for its clients.

Still, Cordell said New Visions at best has been getting level funding for several years. Expenses keep rising.

“We’ve eliminated some staff positions” and those who still have jobs are working more for less money, Cordell said.

This year the state eliminated $205 in monthly cash assistance that people served by New Visions received. The money helped offset room and board costs. The cut puts more pressure on the counties, which puts more pressure on New Visions.

Cordell said he’s already seen the impact of this cut in more persons with mental illness becoming homeless or ending up in jail because they couldn’t afford their medication. The more fortunate ones move in with their family.

As funding sources dry up, demand grows. New Visions has waiting lists for almost all its programs.

“We’re sort of at the point where I think our local communities are going to start losing some services all together,” Cordell said.

“As the state decides to reduce funding further we are not going to be able to do more with less,” he said. “People become homeless, and that’s not an outcome anybody wants.”

How to help 

  • Donations may be sent to New Visions, 138 E. King St., Shippensburg, PA 17257. 
  • New Visions also welcomes gift cards, phone cards, and personal hygiene items that residents can use. 
  • For more information, visit www.new-visions.org or call  717-477-2153.

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