Among the many things lost in the COVID-19 shuffle is HopeWest’s ambitious goal of changing how the Grand Valley deals with aging.
Most of us are familiar with HopeWest as a “community owned” agency that provides compassionate care to the gravely ill and dying. But in 2017, HopeWest faced an existential crisis. The cost of providing hospice care kept rising but reimbursements from the federal government weren’t keeping pace.
The organization either had to grow by finding a new revenue stream; sell to a bigger organization — quite possibly a for-profit corporation — and give up its status as an independent nonprofit; or pare down its operation.
Thankfully, it chose to add a certified Program of All-Inclusive Care to the Elderly (PACE) to its offerings. PACE is a set of programs designed to help senior citizens age in place instead of moving into a “facility” setting.
PACE provides comprehensive medical and social services to people 55 and older who are dependent in at least two activities of daily living — so long as they are considered safe in their own home under PACE care. Perhaps they need help getting dressed or bathing.
Once clients are accepted into the program, HopeWest’s program coordinates everything — from meals and nutritional counseling to doctor visits, physical therapy and emergency care. It’s an integrated approach with medical and supportive services designed to help individuals get their health-care needs met in the community instead of going to a nursing home.
Some PACE programs are set up exclusively to serve Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible patients. But HopeWest’s PACE program will be open to anyone. And HopeWest will continue to offer hospice care as a separate endeavor.
It’s an extraordinarily huge lift for HopeWest to expand its services. To meet PACE certification requirements, HopeWest had to establish a primary care clinic, a physical therapy suite, an adult day care center and transportation, plus have contracts with hospitals, doctors, hearing aid centers and any medical service related to a client’s health that HopeWest can’t provide itself.
That’s a $22 million undertaking, but with scores of benefits for the community. Because PACE is such a capital-intensive endeavor, the federal government protects providers from competition. If HopeWest hadn’t secured a PACE certification, a for-profit business might have. In four to five years, the program is expected to begin making a profit and the money will go back into the program, not into investors’ pockets.
HopeWest will add 200 good-paying jobs over the next three to five years and purchase an additional $9 million more in local products and services. It’s economic impact is expected to grow by $39 million a year to $96 million during that time.
But most importantly, it’s providing a badly needed suite of services no one else is providing. This program fills gaps rather than duplicate or compete with existing services and builds the infrastructure to deal with an aging population in an innovative way.
HopeWest’s president and CEO Christy Whitney’s own experience with her aging parents drove much of what HopeWest’s PACE program will look like. “I wanted to create a place that people weren’t sent — that they wanted to go,” she said last week while meeting with the Sentinel’s editorial board.
The Bacon Center for Living Your Best will house the PACE program. But PACE is just a category of membership in the center. Folks who don’t need PACE programming, but want to take advantage of the amenities (pool table, hair salons, putting green, TV rooms, social space, games, arts and crafts) can buy a monthly CLUB membership. Whitney said it was important for PACE clients to be able to share space with seniors who aren’t enrolled in the program.
Members of the editorial board were given a tour of the facility. We found the range and quality of offerings impressive. The center is warm and welcoming and like nothing else found in the Grand Valley.
So far, HopeWest has raised $9.5 million of its $11.5 million campaign to get the PACE program rolling, hopefully sometime this summer. Campaign organizers hope a $500,000 “challenge” gift from Kay Ferris will inspire more donations.
This “Hope Blooms” campaign comes at a time when we are beginning to think of life after COVID. Eventually, we’re all going to deal with aging — either because of our parents or our own circumstances. HopeWest is creating something the entire community will be able to use.
Visit https://hopebloomsco.org for a better understanding of how HopeWest responded to an immense challenge and please consider supporting the campaign to get this vital program off the ground.