Wanted: 12 Folks With Room In Their Homes And Hearts

Posted: July 05, 1987

Michael Coceano is looking for at least 12 people with "big hearts" and a room to spare.

Coceano, community liaison and program coordinator for the Delaware House, a nonprofit psychiatric counseling agency, is trying to recruit Burlington County residents for the agency's new Home Care Program, which will place emotionally disturbed adults in private homes.

The home-care providers, who will receive training and assistance from the Delaware House staff, will provide supervision and teach basic living skills to emotionally handicapped adults who are unable to live alone.

The program is aimed at meeting the special needs of people with emotional problems who are not ill enough to require institutionalization, Coceano explained.

"What's happening is that a large number of (psychiatric) hospitals are discharging these people," he said. But because there is inadequate housing for them in the community, "they become street people or end up back in the hospital."

Coceano stressed that such people were not physically handicapped or ''intellectually impaired," but suffering from emotional illness.

The goal of the program is to offer participants individualized attention and a sense of family, said Coceano, whose personal goal is to be able to place 12 to 15 clients by January 1988, when the program gets under way.

The Home Care providers must go through a three-month training program that will begin in September. A nurse will advise the providers on the medical aspects of dealing with a psychiatric patient, he said.

"They will have to be able to handle any crisis situation that may come up," Coceano said.

Home Care providers will learn how to help their housemates with personal grooming, money management and meal preparation, and how to administer medication if necessary.

"The hospital can treat them for their symptoms, but it doesn't necessarily teach them the skills they need to manage in the community," said Coceano. "That's our job."

Providers will be paid up to $700 a month for their services, said Coceano, depending on the amount of individual care they have to provide. Some clients, for example, may be able to cook for themselves, while others may need to have their meals prepared for them, he said.

A case manager will visit each home at least once a week to check on the client's progress and offer support and encouragement to the Home Care provider.

The requirements for Home Care providers are fairly flexible. They must have a spare bedroom, but it doesn't matter whether they live in a single- family home or an apartment. They don't have to be married, and they can have children at home. They can be male or female. And there are no income restrictions, though Coceano said "hopefully (potential providers) are not just money-motivated."

But he said the program could provide additional income to low-income

families or people who can't work outside their homes.

"This program is an excellent income opportunity for people who might otherwise not be able to work," he said. "It could help to pay the mortgage and offer some companionship, too."

What is most important, he stressed, is for a provider to have "a big heart" and "a desire to help other people."

Coceano hopes that the Home Care Program will complement the other residential programs, including group homes and apartments, offered by Delaware House. The agency, which is open to all adults in Burlington County, is sponsored in part by the Catholic Welfare Bureau, and also receives state Medicaid funds. It is the only mental-health facility in the county that provides residential care.

Those who would like more information about the Home Care Program should call the Delaware House at 386-1746.

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