After 10 challenging years for Frederick County’s government-run nursing home, officials cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday, opening the new 116,000-square-foot building to praise and accolades.
The ribbon cutting not only included the opening of the new Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center, but also the opening of the new county-owned 40,000-square-foot Montevue Assisted Living, both on Rosemont Avenue in Frederick. The homes, located on the same land as existing buildings, serve low-income Frederick County residents. Plans are to move the 135 residents living in the nursing home and the 60 people in assisted living to their new homes July 10.
“This is a new chapter and a new day,” said Frederick County Commissioner Blaine R. Young (R). “We are open for business and we want to be the most senior-friendly county in the state.”
Young praised the new homes to a packed room of former and current county and state elected officials and board of trustee members.
Commissioner David P. Gray (R), a member of the previous board that voted to fund the two new homes, said he always knew this day would come. “I think the future for the homes is wide open,” he said.
But the opening of the newly-built nursing home, in particular, has not been an easy road.
In 2002, the home was facing financial problems along with a lengthy list of infractions and deficiencies that caused the county commissioners to question the value of a publicly funded nursing home.
A move to go private was halted in 2003 when residents were concerned that their Medicaid and Social Security payments would not be enough for them to continue living there, and staff members worried a takeover would jeopardize retirement and pension benefits accrued through the county government. The county also hired Xavier Health Care Services Inc., of Baltimore to bring the home into compliance with state regulations. That effort proved to be a success.
But in 2011, the current board of county commissioners decided to give up management of Citizens and Montevue to the board of trustees, and told them to cut their operating costs at both homes.
The county is budgeted to give the nursing home and the assisted living a combined $4.2 million in fiscal 2013, which starts July 1. That is a reduction from the $4.4 million given to operate the two homes in fiscal 2012, which ends June 30.
The goal of turning over the daily management of the two homes, was to get the county out of the business of running a nursing home and assisted living. Commissioners insisted at the time, and continue to say, they have no plans to actually sell the two homes.
Meanwhile, the board of trustees adopted changes to employee benefits to cut expenses. Changes were made to sick leave, vacation and reduced county holidays from 12 days to six. The reduction in benefits and salaries saved the county nearly $625,000 in fiscal 2012.
More changes came in January, when management of the two homes was turned over again — this time to LW Consulting Inc., of Harrisburg, Pa. The county will pay the company $439,008 the first year to run the two homes. The county can renew the contract for six months more at a cost of $219,504.
Under the contract, the company provides Citizens and Montevue with a clinical specialist, and handle admissions and marketing, as well as business and office support and management.
The changes come together as the county officially opens the two newly-built homes at a cost of $30 million.
The county built the new homes because the existing buildings are outdated, cramped and inefficient. The current nursing home was built in 1976, and assisted living was built in 1987.
“This is great day,” said former county commissioner Anita Stup, in an interview after Tuesday’s opening. “We in government like to study it, we in government like to knock it around for decades, and if we’re lucky we’ll fund it.”
Stup was a commissioner from 1982 to 1986 and again from 1986 to 1990. She served as board president from1986 to 1990.
The new assisted living includes 75 private efficiency apartments — 15 more than in the current building. Each room has a small refrigerator, microwave, counter space, bathroom, bed and dresser.
The cost for a room at Montevue will continue to be $145 per day for low-income residents.
To help generate money for the county, they plan to offer 15 of the 75 rooms in the building to people who can afford to pay the full rate which will be reflective of other homes in the area, or $160 to $200 a day.
The new nursing home includes 75 private rooms, a special-care unit, an Alzheimer’s unit, a short-term rehabilitation unit, sun porch, library and living and dining rooms.