Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO September 13, 2013 The future of public nursing homes in New York State appears just as troubled as the past, based on a report Sullivan County officials reviewed Tuesday.
During the Legislature’s rescheduled Health and Family Services Committee meeting, Acting County Manager Josh Potosek presented the findings of the Center for Governmental Research’s (CGR’s) “The Future of County Nursing Homes in NYS.”
Released in August, the study found that 92 percent of county-run nursing homes statewide suffered financial losses in 2010 (the most recent data available).
“We are one of them,” Potosek told legislators.
At the time of the study, eight counties were selling their nursing homes to private interests, with another five considering it. That’s on top of four homes already sold since 2005 and another two closed.
The key driver, said the report, was the escalating cost of employee benefits rising 181 percent in the last decade.
The study found that privatizing formerly county-run nursing homes had mixed results. Some homes did better in serving customers and making a profit, others did worse.
“CGR found that, for the most part, the fear that ‘hard to place’ residents would not be served if homes were sold has not been realized,” Potosek’s presentation revealed.
CGR recommended the state provide more funding and practical assistance to public nursing homes but also urged a renewed look at “community-based long-term care solutions other than nursing homes.”
Counties were encouraged to assess their options by analyzing bed shortages and future bed needs, the availability of other long-term care offerings, the history of Medicaid residents, and the needs of both an aging population and a unionized workforce.
If a county does choose to sell its nursing home, there should be “clear criteria,” the report suggested.
Sullivan County, however, does not seem close to selling its Adult Care Center in Liberty, as the center is in the midst of a million-dollar renovation.
Phase I a secure Alzheimer’s unit is complete, while Phase II a short-term physical rehabilitation unit is beginning work.
“We’re eager to get Phase II going so we can reopen back up to four units,” said Health Commissioner Randy Parker.
Currently, 110 of the center’s available 114 beds are filled, said new Administrator Deborah DeJesus.
Legislator Kathy LaBuda urged officials to market the center’s new amenities once the work is all finished.
“The whole idea… is to hopefully break even,” she said.
More green for ‘green’
Legislators in the Ag and Sustainability Committee preliminarily agreed Tuesday to pay the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD) an additional $7,500 this year.
SASD’s Carol Roig and Stephen Stuart work with the county’s Heather Brown and comprise the Office of Sustainable Energy.
The extra monies will enable Roig and Stuart to guide the in-development Climate Action Plan to completion.
“Their contract only allows them to compile the Climate Action Plan, not so much write it,” Acting Planning Commissioner Jill Weyer told legislators.
She urged approval because her division is too staff-strapped to devote time to writing the plan.
If approved by the full Legislature next week, the $7,500 will pay for an additional day’s work per week for Roig and Stuart from October through December.
In addition to completing the plan, the duo will start an interdepartmental Sustainability Working Group, which will bring together Planning, Sustainable Energy, Public Works, Health and Family Services, and Management and Budget.
“This is going to be a big collaborative effort,” Roig told legislators. “… We’d be developing ... projects we can get to shovel-ready, grant-ready status.”
“I think it’s a reasonable approach,” Legislator Alan Sorensen said.
Moving out, and in
The county is apparently forging ahead in a long-awaited effort to move otherwise homeless people out of local motels/hotels and into typical apartment homes.
“This is to get people in permanent housing,” Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker told legislators on Tuesday.
A dozen people are headed to an unidentified apartment house in the county, he said. They’ll enter into normal landlord-tenant leases, which removes the county from liability, he added.
The pilot project will last for about a year to determine its feasibility. The county is hoping to realize a savings and also improve housing for the more than 60 homeless families for which it currently provides shelter.
“The goal is… to continue reducing that number of families and individuals in motels and hotels,” Parker explained.