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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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New group home in south Spokane for medically fragile kids set to open this winter

UPDATED: Mon., June 14, 2021

Left to right with shovels, Swinerton Builders’ Kathryn Piraino, Rep. Jenny Graham, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kunvey and Sam Grove with his son Isaac, 14, break ground on the new Ashley House being renovated for medically fragile children on Spokane’s South Hill on Friday.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Left to right with shovels, Swinerton Builders’ Kathryn Piraino, Rep. Jenny Graham, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kunvey and Sam Grove with his son Isaac, 14, break ground on the new Ashley House being renovated for medically fragile children on Spokane’s South Hill on Friday. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A new group home for medically fragile children is set to open this winter, after the Legislature gave the project a financial boost with capital funding this spring.

Ashley House, a Puget Sound-based nonprofit, will operate the south Spokane home for medically fragile children and teens 18 years old and younger.

When it is completed, the home will offer full-time and respite care to medically fragile children in the area, filling a current gap in the system of care in Spokane.

“The main reason we’re doing it is to meet a need,” Ken Maaz, executive director of Ashley House, said. “Coming here will meet a need that families in this area have.”

The last medically fragile group home that served children and teens 18 years old and younger in the Spokane area closed in 2019 after it lost its license from the state.

The closure left some families in jeopardy: Some opted to take their kids into their own homes and have nursing care offered there, while others made tough decisions to send their kids out of the region to get care.

Currently, there is one group home for medically fragile children in Spokane County, the Bogden House, which is licensed to care for five children under the age of 10.

For the Groves, a Spokane family who chose to bring their son Isaac back into their family home when the Weeping Ridge facility closed in 2019, the new Ashley House in south Spokane means that after more than two years, they will have a local option for care for their son, who is 14.

Sam Grove, Isaac’s father, has been a long-time advocate for the Ashley House home, and both legislators and Ashley House staff acknowledged his role in bringing the project to fruition.

The south Spokane Ashley House will be able to offer care for up to eight children and teens initially. Ashley House offers transitional care from the hospital, long-term care for children to live permanently there, respite care for when families need a break as well as end-of-life care.

Medically fragile children, who might have a tracheostomy or require a ventilator to live, typically need nursing support to help with their daily needs, including eating and bathing. At-home nursing care is available to families with medically fragile children, but group homes like the Bogden House or Ashley House provide options for families who might be unable to accommodate at-home care.

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli, who is on the Capital Budget Committee, was one of the lawmakers who helped secure $552,000 for the Ashley House in Spokane. The funds are used for local projects, requested by local lawmakers, essentially funneling taxpayer dollars back to their own communities. The funding for the Ashley House had bipartisan support, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers were at the groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

Riccelli said the project was prioritized especially due to the need for the home in the Spokane area. There are only a few group homes for medically fragile kids in Eastern Washington, and when Weeping Ridge closed in 2019, some families had to send their children to Yakima, the Tri-Cities or the Puget Sound region for care.

“A facility like this will hopefully provide access that’s needed,” Riccelli said on Friday, noting how hard it is on families to make the decision to send their kids far away for care.

Ashley House will need to hire about 15 medical staff to work at the south Spokane home, as well as apply for licensure through the state. In the meantime, remodeling will soon begin at the house, with many local contractors offering discounted or free services to get the house ready for opening.

The Spokane house is still raising some more funds for a van to transport kids as well as furnishings for the rooms. Ashley House is a nonprofit organization, and they currently operate five homes for medically fragile children and teens in the Puget Sound area.

The nonprofit was able to close on the house, which is on South Cook Street, before the housing market took off in the region. Operators hope to open the home by winter.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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