Area Old Order Amish churches are creating such a place at Philhaven’s Mount Gretna campus in Lebanon County.

It will be called Green Pastures.

Volunteer Amish crews are building the facility, which is now under roof and will open in July.

Volunteers from the Amish community also will staff the home, acting as houseparents for up to 15 people.

The people will live at Green Pastures while they receive treatment at the nearby Philhaven facility, which will be to the west of the one-story home.

Green Pastures is part of a growing trend among Amish and Plain communities, who have built similar homes in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

“It will care for them until they’re stabilized and then they could move on,” said a member of the Old Order Mennonite community who is familiar with the project. He asked not to be identified.

The trend is a healthy one in the Old Order community, which has not always been willing to recognize mental illness, the member said.

“You know what we did years ago? We put them in a back room, locked them up and never talked about them,” the member said. “Today, we’re bringing those people out into the open. It’s a more humane way of taking care of that.”

Members of the Amish community began talking with Philhaven officials in June 2003 about ways the Lebanon County facility could help meet their mental health needs, said LaVern Yutzy, Philhaven’s chief executive officer.

Philhaven provides inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization services for adults and children at its Mount Gretna campus, as well as at other locations in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The connection between the Amish and Philhaven grows from the fact that Philhaven is an agency of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church and works to provide “behavioral healthcare services in an atmosphere of Christian love and care,” according to its Web site.

Amish and Mennonites are Anabaptist groups who believe in adult baptism, a Christ-centered reading of the Scripture and emphasize peacemaking.

Members of the Amish community wanted their members to have better access to follow-up treatment after being discharged from Philhaven’s inpatient unit, Yutzy said. Green Pastures also could house other Amish people who need outpatient care.

Construction on Green Pastures began around March 1, Yutzy said. The cost of the facility is about $400,000, according to a building permit filed in West Cornwall Township.

Yutzy said the Amish community is providing all the materials and labor for building the home. It will then donate the home to Philhaven, but the Amish community will have full use of it.

People may stay in the home for several weeks while undergoing treatment, walking to Philhaven’s main facility, which is just to the west of Green Pastures, Yutzy said.

The Amish community will oversee the day-to-day running of Green Pastures, providing the meals and housekeeping for residents.

The home will be “culturally appropriate,” Yutzy said. While it will have running water and electricity, it will not have, for example, television sets or other modern amenities not found in Amish homes.

It also will allow Amish people to live with others from their community, who do not engage in practices such as drinking alcohol or other modern ways.

Green Pastures will have 7,800 square feet of living space in its first floor and basement, including an apartment for houseparents and guest rooms for visiting family members of house residents, he said.

The Amish community will help pay for the cost of running the home by providing volunteers and other funding, members of the Old Order community said in interviews.

Philhaven will provide therapy, medication and other treatment to residents. It is looking to hire a therapist who speaks Pennsylvania Dutch, Yutzy said.

“We’re focusing on providing services to them respecting their cultural and religious values,” Yutzy said.

“We do a lot of collaborative things,” he added. “It’s a way we can support the Plain community and their efforts to meet their needs. It’s an exciting project.”

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