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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Providence fills gaps in state funding for seniors

At Providence Adult Day Health in north Spokane, Eunice Brugh plays piano in the recreation room today. Because of state cutbacks, Providence Health Care says it will close a facility on the South Hill and serve that center's clients at this center, at 6018 N. Astor.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – One of two Spokane centers where low-income elderly adults go for meals, exercise, socialization and health care will be closed because of state budget cuts. The good news: The 70 people displaced by the closure will not be turned away from the remaining center. Providence Health Care, which runs the centers, will come up with the tens of thousands of dollars it will cost to keep serving them. “These people are very much what our mission is about: the poor and the vulnerable,” said Jim Lippold, citing the Sisters of Providence’ 19th century roots. Lippold is the executive director of Providence Adult Day Health. Not all were as lucky. On Tuesday, ElderHealth Northwest, the largest provider of adult day health services in the state, announced that it will close its flagship center in Seattle and another in Marysville. In Spokane, Providence runs centers on the South Hill and the North Side. The South Hill location will close. Workers care for nearly 200 people at the two locations. Most are elderly; some are younger people with brain injuries, multiple sclerosis or other serious medical conditions. The centers are like a daytime nursing home. For five hours a day, people get meals, therapeutic activities and socialization. Many are frail or incontinent. Some have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier this year, key lawmakers vowed to try to protect adult day health programs, noting that the programs cost taxpayers far less than nursing home care. (Lippold said costs average $7,000 a year per person, compared to 10 times that in a nursing home.) But as legislators struggled to write a budget, expected revenues shrank by billions of dollars. The final budget, signed last month, cuts adult day health by 70 percent. The state could only pay for people still living in their own homes, lawmakers decided. Locally, the cut means a $350,000 to $400,000 annual loss to Providence Adult Day Health, Lippold said. “The only way to really make an impact on that loss is to close one of our two service locations,” he said. The north Spokane location, at 6018 N. Astor St., is owned by Providence and was built especially for elderly users. That facility will remain open. The South Hill site, in rented space at the Clare House retirement community senior center, will close in mid-July. About eight people will lose their jobs. The move will save about $250,000 a year, Lippold estimates. In a series of meetings last month, Lippold and other Providence officials argued that they couldn’t turn their back on the 70 people, even if the state would no longer pay. “These people get very isolated in the community,” he said. “They can’t get around. Their friends have passed away. They just end up stuck at home.” The final decision came May 27, he said, when Providence’s governing board decided to keep serving those people at the remaining location. “In the short run, they’ll just have to find the money somewhere,” Lippold said. The state will no longer pay to transport those 70 people at an average cost of $25 a trip, twice a day. Taxpayers likely will end up footing most of that bill. The job will likely fall to Spokane Transit Authority, Lippold said, at a cost of about $23 a trip.