The Department of Human Resources has passed another milestone in its project to close Forest Haven, the cityrun home for the mentally retarded, by naming mental health administrator Charles Bennett Inlander to direct the move of institutions residents back into the community.
The announcement last week of Inlander's appointment as director of planning for the move comes just one week after DHR met a court-imposed deadline Sept. 30 to place at least 30 Forest Haven residents in residential community programs. The deadline and the creation of Inlander's position were part of an order by Superior Court Judge John Pratt to close Forest Haven and to deinstitutionalise its more than 1,500 residents.
Judge Pratt's order represents a national trend among social and governmental agencies to place institutionalized persons in community rehabilitation programs.
Inlander, who will take office Nov. 6, was selected from among 200 applicants in a nationwide search. In coming months, he will be responsible for developing a comprehensive plan to gradually close Forest Haven. He also will help establish a community advisory board to monitor and evaluate the process.
A panel of three mental health experts assisted in the search and selection of an administrative director. Panel members were Fred J. Krause, executive director of the President's Committee on Mental Retardation; Vincent C. Gray, executive director of the District of Columbia Association of Retarded Citizens, and William J. Washington Jr., MD, assistant to the director for health affairs at DHR.
Inlander, 32, is a native of Chicago with advanced degrees in government and public administration from The American University. From 1970 to 1973, he held administrative positions with The American University Alumni Association. His career in developing programs for the mentally retarded began in 1975 at the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc. Before his DHR, appointment, Inlander was executive director of the Institute for Research and Development in Retardation, Inc., in Harrisburg, Pa.
In announcing the appointment, DHR Director Albert P. Russo said DHR had received $891,000 in federal funds to provide new and continuing community services to the mentally retarded. The funds include $391,000 appropriated by Congress to continue, through 1979, a tuition grant program for 36 Forest Haven youths enrolled in community programs for the mentally retarded with sensory and/or behavoiral problems, he said. The National Institute of Mental Health gave the District the other $280,000 to develop a community-based, residential pilot project for severely mentally disabled adults.
The pilot project will be one of several government-sponsored programs to be conducted across the United States. The project will be administered by the DHR Mental Health Administration with staff members provided by contract funds, the Area B Community Health Center at 1125 Spring Rd. NW and Saint Elizabeth's Hospital, the city's federally run mental institution.
Despite DHR's progress, Vincent Gray said the agency's success fo relocating mentally ill persons in the community will depend largely on community support of zoning hearings and neighborhood education programs affecting the mentally ill.
The neighborhood programs include inherited workshops for the mentally ill as well as community seminars explaining popular myths about the mentally ill, DHR official said.
On Nov. 27 and Nov. 30 zoning hearings will be held to discuss the city's need to open more neighborhoods to programs for the mentally ill. Presently, most of the city's group home programs are in wards 1 and 2.
If the zoning requests are denied, Gray said, the whole deinstitutionalization process could be deterred by residents seeking to close off two-thirds of the city to group home programs.
Community mental health specialists and residents are invited to share written or oral comments at the November hearings, he said.