by Aline Barros
Eight residents at 8915 Colesville Road in Silver Spring help to cook dinner, do laundry and clean the house. They take creative writing, fitness, reading, music appreciation, and quick and healthy cooking classes.
They also go to therapy once or twice a week, and have to take daily medications.
These eight residents are part of Adrienne House, a program operated by Cornerstone Montgomery. The program provides comprehensive 24-hour rehabilitative care, and assists residents suffering from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and personality disorders.
But Adrienne House is next to Ellsworth Park, a property owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which has leased the house to Montgomery County, which then sublet to Cornerstone Montgomery for the past 25 years.
Park and Planning is considering the development of a dog park at Ellsworth Park that officials say should not interfere with Adrienne House; however, it is part of a larger plan to develop more green space for the growing Silver Spring urban area. That may require tenants to move out of the house, which could have a negative effect on residents’ treatment, some say.
At a Nov. 12 meeting, Montgomery County Health and Human Services Director Uma Ahluwalia and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Director Mary R. Bradford discussed the future of Adrienne House. They released a joint statement saying that “the land acquired for a park will need to serve the growing population of Silver Spring, as required under the established master plan for the area.”
“Future use would be determined after consultation with the public. Changes would depend upon funding approval and community need,” said Mary Bradford in an email to The Gazette.
The statement followed with a promise that both departments work together to “extend the current month-to-month lease for 3-5 years to provide stability and predictability to the current residents as future planning for the park begins.”
Cornerstone Montgomery has rented the house for more than 25 years with a long-term temporary-use lease of the property. The lease expired in summer of 2013, and has now been converted to month to month.
“Any change in their lifestyle can certainly have some negative effects ... they could have relapses or become really stressed by the change,” said Raymond Crowel, a psychologist and chief of behavioral health and crisis services at the Montgomery County Health and Human Services.
Crowel explained if changes are anticipated and people have time to adapt to those changes then staff at Adrienne House can be better prepared and help residents have the best outcome possible.
Cari Cho, president and CEO of Cornerstone Montgomery, said they would prefer to stay in the house.
“If we must leave at some point, then we would hope for at least 5 years on a lease extension plus confirmed assistance from the county and Park and Planning to help us [find] a suitable replacement,” said Cho in an email to The Gazette.
As of now, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, along with Montgomery County Health and Human Services, “pledge together to make a good faith effort to ensure that any future displacement may be accommodated in a mutually satisfactory manner, and we will work together to find a mutually acceptable alternative to serve the population currently housed at Adrienne House,” according to their joint statement.
The house was built in 1954. It has seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. Two residents share a bedroom and bathroom, while others have their own room. There is also a basement with recreational equipment where they can watch TV, use the computer or use as quiet space.
Besides the eight residents living in Adrienne House, Cornerstone Montgomery provides assistance to a total of 212 residents suffering from mental illnesses who live at nearby apartments and are also part of the 24-hour rehabilitative care.
Cho explained that Adrienne House provides a “critical” service to the community, and the house is a “vital service in a location that meets the needs of the people we serve. It is close to our clinic and day program services on 16th Street as well as being centrally located to public transportation,” added Cho.
Cornerstone Montgomery pays $1 monthly rent to Montgomery County. This arrangement, according to the nonprofit’s CEO, was “made years ago because the county needed us to provide 24-hour supervised housing and they were able to give us the use of this house for that purpose.”
The organization’s mental health and support clinic at 8555 16th Street in Silver Spring supports residents with assistance from a psychiatrist, nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists, and counselors.
In the CEO’s letter to the county’s park and planning officials she said the possible taking back of the building raised concerns on the organizations’ board and senior management. Cho said that it would be very difficult to find a new housing for eight people with serious disabilities.
“It would be a tremendous hardship to move these folks and find another suitable location,” Cho said.
At Adrienne House, there is a program supervisor, a house administrator, counselors and part-time case aids, which combined make up to eight staff members who are all employed by Cornerstone Montgomery.
Employees said residents pay for the care they receive.
Costs range from $667 to $1,100 per month.
“Most of our clients are either on social security income or social security disability. They do pay for their cost of care,” said Nicole Graner, manager of communications at Cornerstone Montgomery.
To participate at the program, residents must be referred through the county, self-referral through a psychiatrist, or family member.
“We get a lot of funding through medicare. We also get grants from the county from the state, and private donations,” added Graner.
But the county manages the waiting list to join the comprehensive 24-hour rehabilitative care, and officials from the Health and Human Services department said that at any given time, there are 45 people waiting for placement in any intense rehabilitation care program in Montgomery County.
According to employees, the house is in a residential area that is close enough to the downtown area.
“The great thing about this location is that the Silver Spring metro is right down the street. It gives them access to D.C. and other parts of Maryland. And it is honestly about a 10-minute walk,” said Matthew Shelly, residential counselor at Cornerstone Montgomery.
It gives the residents and other program participants access to the library and gym, which are a great resource for exercising and socialization.
In fact, because of the closeness to downtown Silver Spring, people assisted by Cornerstone Montgomery at Adrienne House and nearby apartments are able to find part-time job at in retail and the food industry.
“The benefits ... this location provides, for the type of work we do, are quite essential ... [and] all the clients that have come through our door know that this particular location exists, and that they can come here for support ... or if they feel they are in crisis,” said Shelly.
Robert Lyon has a son that suffers from bipolar disorder, and twice tried to kill himself. Lyon said that Adrienne House made a “huge difference” in his son’s life.
“Places like Adrienne House provide an opportunity as they get better to put them in a independent living ... And this makes all the difference because it all comes down to comfort,” said Lyon.
Now, Lyon’s son lives in the community he grew up, and is able to work part time at a grocery store.
Crowel said a stable house is very important, and having the support and programs like Adrienne House helps the healing process these residents have to go through.
“A place to live and shelter is a vital part of your well being,” said Crowel.