WOODLAWN — Wall Residences Open House on September 23 gave participants a peek into the new group home for individuals with significant disabilities and a look at the Commonwealth’s vision of successors to the Southwestern Virginia Training Center.
“We’ve known for about three years the State training centers would be closed. We were approached by the State to get into building group homes, preferably four bedrooms to keep them small, ” said Wall Residences Director Jack Wall. He said the firm has been renovating and running similar facilities for more than 20 years.
The firm’s web site states its purpose is “to support people to live the lives they find meaningful and fulfilling.” This is accomplished through a focus on Person Centered Practices, or what is important to a person (their relationships, things they want to do, places they want to go) and helping them find balance between that and staying healthy and safe and being a valued community member.
Jack Wall, M.Ed and Kamala Bauers, LCSW founded the firm. Wall worked as the Director of Mental Retardation Services for two Virginia Community Services Boards with over 25 years of experience in the field before founding the agency. Bauers comes to this work primarily as a sister of an individual with significant support needs. The approach being to provide services around the needs of the individual, not making an individual fit into an existing service setting.
The group home will employ nine full-time staffers (three shifts) and maintain a listing of part-time personnel (to assist with routine and special activities) in addition to its management staffers (two persons).
“It’s important we have a lot of part-time staffers to cover different situations,” Wall said. The agency is working with Training Center Community Integration Specialist Michelle Laird and looks to add experienced talent from Center staffers to its full and part-time on call positions. The house has a backup generator for security in power outages. An open floor plan for accessibility, two vans for transportation, and is developing message boards for residents to communicate better where they can more exactly indicate what their preferences are.
“We are building off the local community’s resources (police, fire, pharmacies and physicians for instance) which is where some of the cost savings comes from. This is the wave of the future,” said Wall. “We are pretty familiar with this area (He worked at the Training Center in 1975, leaving for a position with Mount Rogers in 1980.), were already providing services and had a pretty good staff.”
He said Laird indicated the section through Hillsville and Galax was a high-demand situation since the people coming out of the Training Center and the families are familiar with the area and with the availability of staff coming out of the center that already had experience with the population. (The process began a year and a half ago with renovation starting in February.) Wall said this home is scheduled to open on October 13 with a second home on Training Center Road set to open in November.
“In these small homes we’re creating the flexibility and support, even though they are less expensive to run, than a large training center,” Wall said. “The reality is each staff is so dedicated they can focus their attention on the smaller group of people to develop individualized services way better than what these people have had before. It is amazing what you can do in these small homes, small settings, employing local people with deep connections with the local community to get these people spending their time doing interesting things. It actually does create a better quality of life. I know there is a lot of resistance across the state to closing training centers but there is a big win for everyone in the state in my opinion. We get a better quality of care. It’s less expensive. The cost for services in a place like this is around $90,000 total cost of care per year. I don’t know what the Training Center’s (exact) cost is but I believe it is over $200,000 to run that big facility, the administration and all the things they’ve got there.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]