By Sue Moore
“We want to make our residents feel special,” said Sami Al Jallad, executive director of Turning Leaf Behavioral Health Services, as his company opens its newest programs in Vicksburg. “This [will be] their home. Some will be here a short time but most will be here a while longer. These are people with amazing stories and something to offer. Our vision is to provide the highest quality health care possible for this population.”
Al Jallad and his wife, Destiny, who is director of operations, toured the Bronson Vicksburg Hospital in November 2017. Bronson had not yet closed the hospital at 13326 N. Boulevard Street; but had been hoping to sell the facility. “It had the right feeling,” Destiny Al Jallad said. “It had a safe feeling with a soundness to it.”
That safe feeling is important in their business, headquartered in Lansing. Turning Leaf serves adults diagnosed with mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities aged 18 and over in their Lansing, Muskegon, Holland, Caledonia, Otsego, Pentwater and Scottville locations. In Vicksburg, Turning Leaf expects to serve an older population, aged 50 and older, as they age out of their current residences and need a different level of care. This focus will extend the continuum of care Turning Leaf currently offers. In Vicksburg, residents will be treated for psychiatric, behavioral and medical complexities. “There are not many options around the state for this population similar to what we have planned for Vicksburg,” Sami said.
Currently, Turning Leaf serves approximately 100 residents across the state of Michigan. The Vicksburg programs will add 40 more residents when Birch I and Birch II units open ther in the fall of 2019. The two Adult Foster Care Homes, licensed by the state of Michigan, will be entirely separate facilities with separate staff and a different kind of feel to the living arrangement said Kathy Sparrow-Dinzik, program director and administrator who is a Vicksburg native. By the time both programs are fully staffed, Turning Leaf hopes to employ 80 people at the Vicksburg locations.
“This building is full of personality,” Sparrow-Dinzik quipped. “We are learning all of its quirks as we retrofit each area. The walls have been painted in soothing colors. There is new carpeting and furnishings in the public areas and in the living, dining and gathering rooms. This is a unique setting. There are not a lot of others like it. There is a big need. I’m passionate about helping people build their skills to get them in the least restrictive environment possible. This is their home and we want them to feel like it is their community.”
Amenities in each 20-bed unit include half baths in each room with a larger detached shower room, a living room space with TVs, games and reading areas, wellness room, laundry room, nursing station, kitchen area with dining room attached, serenity room for low stimulation for those who seek quiet and a bit more solitude and a secured courtyard. Many of the old hospital rooms have been converted to two bed living units. Some have been designed as one person rooms for those who need around the clock care. Future plans call for a beauty shop and resident store.
“I know this is my calling,” Sparrow-Dinzik said. She had been working most recently at Heritage in Kalamazoo as assisted living director. She received her training in radiology, having worked in the Vicksburg hospital radiology department after graduating from Kellogg Community College and Vicksburg High School in 1984.
“Kathy found us; she is a godsend.” Destiny declared. “She knows this village, its people and how special the Vicksburg community is. She is as passionate as we are about helping people. You can’t teach someone to have this kind of passion.”
Turning Leaf sprouted from a family business started by Al Jallad’s mother and father who were from Flint. Sami’s mother, Rachel, is a registered nurse with years of inpatient psychiatric experience who saw the need for a holistic style of care. Sami’s father, M. Sami, was employed by General Motors for a number of years and simultaneously launched a real estate investment and management company which ultimately morphed into the healthcare management organization that is now Turning Leaf. Since 2003, when the founders retired, their eldest son, Sami, has assumed the leadership role within the organization and sought to build on its reputation by seeking out program accreditations and to develop new locations throughout Michigan.
“I have a profound respect for what my parents in law started and what my husband Sami has been doing for the entirety of his professional life,” Destiny said. “The behavioral health field is a challenging and fast-moving field. When I joined the company in 2011, it had two locations; we have learned a lot and worked hard to get to the point of opening these Vicksburg programs. We are extremely proud of the programs and offering it to our community mental health stakeholders across the region,” Destiny said. “It’s all about normalizing and destigmatizing the life of these unique individuals. That’s why we go above and beyond. That’s why stakeholders seek us out.”
Open Houses for the community are scheduled on September 5 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., September 11 and 12 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.