A few years ago, Colin went through a particularly bad stretch of agressive behavior, posing a threat to himself and to others around him. We didn’t know it at the time, but Colin was sick with Pancreatitis. His aggressive episodes would come out of nowhere, and last for many minutes. He was getting bigger and more difficult to control.
We were forced to accept the idea that we needed help, both in the short term and the long term. We needed to place Colin in a group home if for nothing else but for the safety of his sisters and mother.
Because Alabama’s waiting list for residential placement is so long, we came to this decision realizing that it would take some time to place Colin in a home. I began to do research on group homes, and Colin’s mom visited a few group homes. Both Pat and I came to the same conclusion: we didn’t want Colin in a group home. Some were not run well, some were dirty and run down. Some were not safe for Colin, not to mention the safety of those other clients who may be occupying the home with Colin. Then the idea dawned on us; why not open our own group home?
Again, I set my mind on researching out how to start and run a group home in Alabama. I read the Alabama Code, learned all I could about starting a home, and signed up for a mandatory training session in Montgomery for those wishing to become community providers in Alabama.
In the interim between signing up for the training and attending, I discovered an obscure article written by William Haas. In that article Bill explained how he started a “Microboard” for his disabled adult daughter, and learned of the benefits of a Microboard. I then went on to discover the Vela Microboard Association in Canada. I discovered that Microboards were operating in several states such as Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee. The more I learned, the more I realized that what Colin needed was not a group home, but a Microboard.
We started our Microboard (unfunded) in October 2011, and since September 2012 Colin has been residing there with three staff taking care of him five days a week. At present we are trying to convince the Alabama Department of Mental Health of the benefits to both Colin and to the State of Alabama of funding the Microboard directly. This has been a tough sell in our state especially considering the state of the economy and the shrinking Medicaid budget. We will not give up however as we have plenty of time. Follow along with my blog on this site for updates. I would be willing to speak with anyone who would like to learn more about what we have done and what we are trying to do.
Kelly R. Conaty