February 2008

By BILL MCKELWAY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

When it opened 23 years ago, Gateway Homes of Greater Richmond was an oasis of insight, a core solution for the state’s decades-old problem of providing community mental-health care.

The same is true today.

Gateway remains the state’s only nonprofit, private residential facility for seriously mentally ill people, most of whom have schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

“We are still pretty much alone in terms of what we do,” said Executive Director Daniel Herr, the former director of forensics at Central State Hospital.

The 30-acre property in southern Chesterfield County offers a rustic, community-oriented atmosphere for 39 residents, each of whom receives intensive, one-on-one attention. And now, Wayne is one of them.

The waiting list for care currently is 18, but Clinical Director Lynda Hyatt said demand is, in effect, limitless. There are thousands who could benefit from Gateway’s model of care, she said, but the facility can absorb only so many residents on its budget.

Help is not reserved for the wealthy.

In the most recent fiscal year, Gateway’s expenditures were $1.2 million. It received about $350,000 in fees from residents’ Social Security benefits, Department of Housing and Urban Development vouchers, and auxiliary grants. It received about $500,000 from third-party payers, such as Medicaid, for clinical services. Gateway also raised more than $343,000 in contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and churches.

In Wayne’s case, a monthly disability check and Medicaid reimbursement money are his family’s only financial contributions to his care.

“We closely monitor who we accept,” Hyatt said. “The key is a determination to succeed and follow our program. Those who aren’t dedicated don’t make it.

“We hope that Wayne will succeed here.”

All but about 5 percent of residents successfully achieve independence. Follow-up care, including medication monitoring, housing and transportation, are available.

After months behind bars and inside cheerless institutional rooms at state hospitals, Wayne now lives in a room with a window that opens to forestland and the future.

“We have our fingers crossed,” said Wayne’s mother, Bonnie McCormick. “The hope has never changed. I want the best chance possible for my son to have a life after I’m gone.” Note: Wayne’s progress will be followed in The Times-Dispatch in future months.