SAC’s senior center proposal “moving along”

Says chair regarding private-pay facility being proposed
Thu, 09/05/2019 - 6:00pm

The Senior Advisory Committee’s quest to create a senior adult residential center on Block Island is moving past the discussion phase and is headed toward the Town Council. That was good news for members of the committee who are cautiously optimistic about the project.

The SAC is focused on creating a five to 10 bedroom private-pay facility with housing for caregivers on the premises. If SAC is able to some day construct such a facility, the renowned architect behind the proposal said it could be recognized for creating a unique, first-of-its-kind senior-care facility, a model for other communities to replicate.

“If it’s a private facility, we have an opportunity to do something nobody else has done before,” said Jan Wampler, an architect who owns a home on Block Island, following a roundtable discussion hosted at the Block Island Community Center on Wednesday, Aug. 28. “We have a chance to be very inventive, and change the way we view elder care.”

Wampler said the facility could be a multipurpose facility with some of the same amenities as a community center.

The proposal has the attention of Town Manager Ed Roberge, who said during that roundtable discussion that he “likes the vision” for the project. Roberge asked the committee “if folks on Medicare” would be able to stay at such a facility “if we went fully private?” He added: “Are we shutting anybody out is the question?”

“This is not something that I anticipate that Medicare will pay for,” said Maryann Seebeck, the town’s Director of Human Services, who has been spearheading research of the project, along with SAC Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich. “Medicaid pays for this sort of thing. Medicare does not.”

“So, is it fair to say that we’re really looking at a self-pay model” with this type of facility, asked Roberge.

“Yes,” that’s the type of model we’re looking at, said Seebeck. “There are programs for Medicaid, long-term care and support services, that really should be for everyone. It shouldn’t matter what your income is. If you’re 94, and you need help getting dressed, you should have that service.”

Seebeck said she envisions that caregivers would pay rent at the facility, but get paid for the service they provide, which would include respite care, etc. “I’m envisioning that if you have eight to 10 rooms that are used for these purposes, that they would all be full. I think there would be a waiting list. So, it should pay for itself.”

Roberge had another question: “So if this were built today, if we opened the doors today, how many people do we have today that would fill the rooms up?”

“I think you would have between three and four people as residents,” said Redlich. “I have one woman who said to me, ‘This is going to happen too late for me.’ She’s in a sort of quasi-crisis of whether she moves off the island or does something else. And there are a couple of others that may fall into that category.”

Redlich said that similar facilities in Maine that SAC has been researching are small “five to eight person houses.” She noted that she suspects “that there is some live-in personnel in those places.”

“I believe so,” said Seebeck.

There was some discussion about how many floors and rooms the facility would have, and if an elevator would be installed. Resident John Hopf said a chair-lift could be a substitute for an elevator, which would be less costly and easier to install in the building.

Wampler said a one-floor facility would be ideal, and eliminate the need for installing and maintaining an elevator. He seemed in favor of a private-pay facility, and noted that there could be an opportunity to partner with the Block Island Medical Center on the project.

No site locations have been determined, but the Faulkner property across from the Block Island School was bandied about during the discussion.

At the conclusion of the roundtable discussion, Redlich asked Roberge and Sam Bird, the town’s Facilities Manager, what the “next step” might be with the project.

In response, Roberge said that it’s the first item on the council’s work session agenda on Wednesday, Sept. 4. “The Town Council is excited to hear what’s going on,” he said.

The SAC is an advisory board to the Town Council.

After the meeting, SAC Chair Sandra Kelly said that if such a facility is built “people will come,” and want to reside there, whether it’s respite care or long-term care. She said SAC may not see a building being constructed in her lifetime, “but at least we’re moving the discussion along.” 

The next SAC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 9:30 a.m.