Hopewell, a therapeutic farmI recently read an interesting article by Kristy Foster on the Farm and Dairy website entitled “A healing place: Farming has a hand in recovery for those suffering from mental illness.” The article shines a spotlight on Hopewell Farm in Mesopotamia, Ohio – a unique 300-acre treatment center for adults with “schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other forms of serious mental illness.”

Hopewell has the capacity to serve 40 adults, each of whom is expected to work on a crew, when well enough to do so. Each work crew serves a specific need in the community: housekeeping, kitchen, maintenance and grounds, farm and garden. In addition to requiring residents to serve on a work crew, Hopewell’s program includes:

  • Anger management
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Creative expression
  • Dual diagnosis issues
  • Equine assisted psychotherapy
  • Meditation and spirituality
  • Education (high school diploma program)
  • Money management
  • Music – Instruction and performance opportunities
  • Independent living skills (planning, shopping, cooking, healthy living)

Clients at Hopewell stay an average of six to nine months.

As Foster points out, Hopewell has three main goals for its clients:

  • To believe in your own potential.
  • To develop the skills necessary to manage the mental illness.
  • To transition from Hopewell to a more independent living situation.

At the end of the article, Colleen Welder, director of program services, sums up the philosophy behind this unique treatment approach perfectly: “Participation in the meaningful work and community helps aid in their recovery rather than facing mental illness alone.”

Reading about Hopewell, you might wonder, “Why can’t all treatment facilities be like this?” While cost is obviously one factor, we need to realize also that Hopewell’s residents are not typically there for intensive treatment of acute symptoms. Traditional “institutions” face the challenges of treating patients in crisis, ensuring the safety of all patients, and maintaining security. That’s nearly impossible to accomplish in a farm-based community setting. Hopewell is designed more for those who’ve been released from traditional treatment centers and are now seeking long-term solution and the skills necessary to transition back to a more independent living situation.

Not All Long-Term Community Care Facilities Are Created Equal

Sadly, The New York Times has published a series of articles shining a harsh light on the long-term care “community” facilities (nursing homes really) that take care of many of New York’s residents with chronic mental illness who are not in need of acute care. Not only have these facilities failed to provide the comprehensive, compassionate approach practiced at Hopewell, but they have a track record of providing less than the basics, not infrequently drifting into abuse and neglect. Residents in these facilities are shut away and forgotten and offered no chance for living as whole a life as possible.

Even so, I do believe that some community-based and traditional facilities are moving beyond traditional long-term maintenance care that offers only medications and therapy. Some places have begun to adopt non-traditional approaches, including pet therapy, Pilates, yoga, mindfulness training, and increased family involvement. The key benchmark is whether the treatment facility is designed to make residents dependent upon it or independent of it or at least works toward giving residents the opportunity to live their lives as fully as they’re able.

We’d like to know what you think. What do you envision as the ideal treatment/recovery center? If you were in charge, how would you change traditional treatment facilities? What would you do away with or do less of? What would you implement or do more of?