To the Editor
Our communities are experiencing a growing percentage of older residents who are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to health care decisions. As we all age, we will seek out a mix of traditional and new services to help support the lifestyle we choose. Recognizing this, the state is directing resources to identify and create the new services necessary to balance the segment of our health care system that has become overly reliant on providing elder care in an institutional setting.
Traditionally our region and others have turned to nursing home care for people who are perceived as no longer able to live on their own, or aren’t quite ready to go home after hospitalization following surgery or a major health event. The care provided in our nursing homes is second to none, however, as people remain healthier and live longer, the traditional nursing home is no longer viewed as the preferred setting.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah announced a $7.1 million grant award through the Vital Access/Safety Net Provider Program (VAP) to the Blue Line Group. The Blue Line Group is a partnership of the only four non-public, not-for-profit nursing homes in the 6-million acre Adirondack Park: Adirondack Tri-County in North Creek, Heritage Commons in Ticonderoga, Mercy Living Center in Tupper Lake and Uihlein Living Center in Lake Placid. Eight months ago, The Blue Line Group embarked on a journey to serve as a convener of new ideas and partnerships that will address and resolve the well documented challenges threatening the viability of long term care services in our region.
In the short-term, the Vital Access Provider funds secured by Blue Line Group will help address the fiscal distress its nursing homes have endured following years of Medicaid reimbursements that fell short of the actual cost of care. By providing financial stability, Blue Line Group partners will be better positioned to proactively focus on long-term solutions by aligning business strategies and care coordination to meet the changing health care needs of our region.
These long term solutions will identify innovative economies of scale, centralized purchasing, new services for seniors and other models of care to serve a diverse and growing segment of the population.
The Adirondack region is expected to see a 23 percent increase in persons aged 65 and older between 2010 and 2020, a rate that is 15 percent greater than Upstate New York as a whole. According to a 2009 regional assessment, if current population trends continue in the next twenty years, the Adirondacks will rival Florida’s west coast with the oldest population in America.
This growing group does not see themselves as purely needing the services of a skilled long term care setting, but rather services that facilitate wellness to return home or an environment with supportive living services. These services may include, but are not limited to adult day care, licensed home care, physical rehabilitation or nutritional counseling.
The Blue Line Group was formed on the fundamental premise our region’s nursing homes face a shared set of challenges that can be overcome by working together. The ultimate goal is to ensure those who choose to live a long and full life in the Adirondacks have access to a mix of traditional and new community based alternatives delivered by a financially stable system and well-trained workforce.
We are grateful to Gov. Cuomo and Commissioner Dr. Shah for showing their support and recognizing we need to proactively position our collective organizations to meet the health care needs of our community.
Hal Payne, Administrator, Adirondack Tri-County
Laura Tirado, Administrator, Heritage Commons
Marc Walker, Administrator, Uihlein Living Center
Elena Vega-Castro, Administrator, Mercy Living Center