In the world of mental health care, everything is boiled down to acronyms. Adult Residential Facilities, for example, are known as ARFs, and this past week, the universe of ARF beds — desperately needed in Santa Barbara County — just grew by 10 with the opening of Polly’s House, located within spitting distance of Cottage Hospital on Bath Street. Polly’s House will provide housing and services for older and physically frail patients whose mental illnesses are sufficiently severe that they have been sent to intensive long-term care facilities located out of county — because none exist here — known as IMDs. That’s short for Institutions of Mental Disease.
At Polly’s House, patients will share rooms and receive 24/7 care, supervision, and services. “It’s the services that will make this place a home,” said Jeff Gaddess, residential service director for the Mental Wellness Center, which operates seven facilities with 100 beds. The trick, he said, is to ensure the right mix of patients so that everyone gets along. Likewise, Gaddess noted, extra efforts have been made to ensure good relations with immediate the neighbors.
At any given time, the county’s Department of Behavioral Wellness has about 50 patients residing in out-of-county IMDs. The waiting list for such beds is intense, as much as two years long. By opening Polly’s House, some of those patients can be brought back to Santa Barbara County, where local government can be reimbursed via Medi-Cal for the care provided. At Polly’s House, that re-imbursement runs to $58,000 per person per year. If family members are in Santa Barbara, these patients can be closer to relatives.
The opening of Polly’s House brings to 28 the total number of ARF beds provided by the Mental Wellness Center. Other providers, like Phoenix House, also offer such beds. Polly’s House is named after Polly Mack — and indirectly her mentally ill son Philip Mack — whose house was sold to help purchase the property, a 14-bed senior-care facility that went out of business. Those funds — coupled with $300,000 in money from the city’s now defunct Redevelopment Agency — helped buy and retrofit the property, bringing it into compliance with a host of new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.