- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

MOUNT GRETNA, Pa. - On the grounds of a private psychiatric center, Amish carpenters are at work on a modest, two-story house with light-gray siding — a place that will serve members of their faith who are afflicted with mental illness.

The home, Green Pastures, will allow people from the Old Order Amish and conservative Mennonite communities east of Harrisburg to live among their own community and maintain a lifestyle that eschews modern conveniences — no television or radio — while receiving outpatient clinical treatment.

Known for their plain style of dress and use of horse-drawn buggies, the Amish tend to avoid seeking psychiatric help in secular settings, fearing their religious traditions will be viewed as part of the problem.

When it opens in July, the Amish-run Green Pastures will be one of at least two residential facilities in the nation that place the Amish in familiar settings, said the organization that will provide the treatment, Philhaven Behavioral Healthcare Services.

Counselors will assure patients that the treatment will not include requiring them to abandon their faith, said Charles G. Bauman, a Mennonite who is Philhaven’s liaison with the Amish community.

“This will build a bridge between the professional [mental-health] services and their culture,” Mr. Bauman said. “People who are mentally ill are vulnerable to being easily influenced by other people.”

The first facility of its kind in Pennsylvania, Green Pastures — which can accommodate up to 15 residents — is a collaboration between Philhaven and leaders of the Amish community, who first approached the organization with the idea in June 2003, Mr. Bauman said.

A broad range of psychiatric care is available to the Amish communities throughout North America, from professional services to more informal, homespun programs run by conservative sects, said Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist of Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College.

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