Next month marks the 10th anniversary since the first Green House Project home’s launch in Tupelo, Miss., radically changed the trajectory of long term care in America.
Ten years ago, the idea that elders who required 24-hour skilled nursing care could receive it in a real home, in their community, with privacy and dignity — at no additional cost compared to typical nursing homes! — was considered far-fetched, to put it mildly.
Today, according to McKnight’s Long Term Care News Editor James M. Berklan, to not know about The Green House Project is unthinkable:
Nowadays, to have anything to do with long-term care and not know the Green House name or concept is unthinkable. If this were an entertainment or computer firm we were talking about, we might well be rolling out Disney or Apple references.
Indeed, like Apple, the Green House model “regularly receives the highest compliment in the marketplace,” and “Independent firms have studied the movement and generally praised its goals and achievements,” Berklan notes.
So if Green House is the Apple of the long term care industry, I guess McKnight’s is calling Green House founder Dr. Bill Thomas the “Steve Jobs” of long term care? As the founder of the global nonprofit The Eden Alternative, The Green House Project and the designer of the nation’s first senior emergency department, among numerous other innovations, I’d say it’s not a stretch.
And if that’s the case, let me introduce you to the “Steve Wosniak” of The Green House Project — Steve McAlilly of Mississippi Methodist Senior Services in Tupelo, Miss., who blazed the trail by opening the first Green House homes 10 years ago next month.
It took a visionary leader like Steve to believe in the Green House concept, boldly pioneer the model and create a blueprint for others to follow.
It was worth it, Steve said, but it wasn’t easy.
“Building (the first Green House) was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Steve told me in an interview I videotaped during the 2012 Green House Annual Meeting and Celebration.
“Bill Thomas is the great philosopher, the great thinker, and he came up with this amazing idea,” Steve said. “Now, don’t tell him I said this, but sometimes Bill is not very practical. It became our job with him to try to figure out how to make this wonderful idea a reality, and we didn’t have a blueprint, we were literally making it up as we went. We were charting waters that had never been sailed before.”
“If there’s one thing I learned from this it’s don’t be first! Be second,” Steve added.
Well, Mississippi Methodist wasn’t just first or second — they built the first four Green House homes at the same time. The results were so dramatic they immediately built six more. Ten years later, they’re operating 18 Green House homes and the only reason they haven’t built more is a state moratorium on new licenses.
Thanks to Steve’s leadership and Mississippi Methodist’s willingness to “be first”, there are now hundreds of Green House homes operating or under construction across the U.S. with plans to open them in every state as soon as possible.
Throughout May, The Green House Project will celebrate Mississippi Methodist Senior Services pioneering achievement, and the revolution that they sparked. On Sunday, May 5, there will be a block partyin Tupelo to celebrate the 10-year milestone, with Bill and Steve and Green House members from around the country. You can follow the festivities on twitter at #Tupelo10 and join the conversation.