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Group home gets approval from Unity

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Unity officials on Tuesday granted a request to allow an independent living home to operate with 15 residents.

The township zoning hearing board approved Unity-based Adelphoi USA to increase the number of residents at the home at 431 Saxman Road, which operated as a personal care home from 1995 to 2004.

Property owner Michael Nath testified during the hearing that once the care home was no longer financially feasible because of changing health care stipulations, it was rented as a single-family home.

Adelphoi has signed a memorandum of intent to lease with the owner.

The 10-bedroom, three-bathroom residence was licensed by the state Department of Public Welfare to house up to 18 people, but in 1994, the township imposed a 10-person limit, said attorney Dan Hewitt, representing Adelphoi.

The facility is planned to house male residents between the ages of 16 and 20 in an independent living arrangement that enables them to attend school and work, but they are transported and monitored by staff at all times, said Mark Mortimer, vice president of residential services.

Twelve staff members are assigned to the home with two or three present at all times, which is more than the required 8-1 ratio of residents to staff required by the DPW, said Mortimer.

Tobacco is not permitted on the premises, and family visits are only allowed by appointment for the court-adjudicated youth, Mortimer said.

Residents typically stay in the program for six to nine months and could be delinquent or dependent, requiring outpatient mental health or medical services, he said.

Any inpatient or substance abuse treatment would have already been completed at a different facility, Mortimer said.

Residents are randomly drug-tested by staff members, who complete 40 hours of annual training, including first aid and crisis management, Mortimer said.

The property is also subject to annual reviews by DPW and health inspections every three years, Rutter said.

About 15 people attended the meeting, including neighboring property owner Jim Newcomer, who said even though he does not reside on the property, the facility could inhibit personal safety, property safety and property values nearby.

The facility is intended to replace one of three independent-living homes, including the Margaret Home in Latrobe. Judy Rutter, chief of staff with Adelphoi, said the property is a better-suited environment than the existing home in downtown Greensburg.

Adelphoi operates 21 facilities statewide.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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