In 2007, Doug Osborn and Charles Scott of the Wyoming legislature brought a bill up for consideration. The bill would authorize three pilot projects, in three different communities in Wyoming, to study alternative elderly care homes.
The passage of the bill was a catalyst for radical change in eldercare in Wyoming. Prior to this bill, Osborn and others had traveled to Tupelo MS to study the Green House model of care. They decided to bring it back to the community of Sheridan.
Two cottages finished construction at the end of 2011, while two more finished in early 2012. The four cottages at Green House Living for Sheridan opened to residents on January 31 of 2012.
But what is truly remarkable about Green House Living for Sheridan is that it was built not by an established religious organization or nursing home company. Instead, it was conceptualized, funded, and constructed from the ground up by the individuals living in Sheridan.
When it was built, Sheridan held the audacious title of being the only grassroots Green House community in the nation.
The Wyoming Life Resource Center
For a state that set one record with the conception of its first Green House home, it’s no surprise that they’re on track to set another.
The Wyoming Life Resource Center (WLRC) in Lander, Wyo., is a state-owned Green House community that has long served the needs of the Wyoming population and is being rebuilt as the first Green House home to be established as an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) for people with intellectual disabilities, in addition to housing cottages established as a traditional skilled nursing facility (SNF). In accordance with federal Medicare and Medicaid regulations, this means that WLRC will serve people who have organic brain syndrome, high medical needs, and those who are “hard to place.”
Construction began in 2018 will host a total of 100 beds in 10 cottages, all built using the Green House model. There are four types of cottages in terms of licensure—ICF Medical Cottages, ICF Behavioral Cottages, SNF Medical Cottages, and SNF Behavioral Cottages. The campus also includes a recreation center with a pool, therapies and gym, an outpatient clinic with a pharmacy and lab, and a kitchen (existing) with a pharmacy and lab.
Doug Osborn has since passed away, but his legacy lives on in the Green House community he helped to create.
The WLRC is an example of how best to meet the needs of diverse people with diverse needs, all under the Green House core values of Real Home, Meaningful Life, and Empowered Staff. The model of WLRC is innovation at its core. It sets an example that many residential care facilities across the U.S, Green House or not, are looking to replicate and learn from.
What Is it About Wyoming?
What is it about Wyoming that makes it such a hotspot for the sort of tenacious idealism demonstrated by Sheridan and WLRC? Former director of WLRC, Virginia Wright, describes it well: “Because we are a small state, we have a different mindset than some of the larger states. We still look at people as people and not just as numbers. I’ve worked in many states, and I have never seen as high of standards as I have seen here.”
With Wyoming proving what’s possible in terms of diverse eldercare, it’ll be exciting to see how the eldercare landscape across the country shifts in response.