Friday, March 16, 2012

Private operator plans care facility

County commissioner says project may provide solution


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Safe Haven already operates an assisted-living facility in Wendell, above.

A private company is planning to build a tiered-care senior care facility in the south valley that, according to senior care experts and county officials, could potentially end senior care discussions in Blaine County.

Scott Burpee, CEO of Safe Haven Health Care, said in a county meeting last month that his company is currently in the process of finding a site for an 80-bed skilled nursing and assisted living facility in Hailey or Bellevue. Safe Haven Health Care already owns seven senior care sites across the state, but Burpee said Blaine County's lack of tiered-care homes makes the area a perfect market for the site.

Burpee said building the home—which would include 30 assisted-living units and 50 skilled-nursing units, could obviate construction of Croy Canyon Ranch, a proposed three-tier facility west of Hailey.

Though the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation has worked for more than a decade to raise the $13.4 million required to begin the project, Burpee said his facility may save them further effort.

"Why would they want to still go ahead?" he said in an interview, but added that he didn't want to say the foundation shouldn't continue working on a business plan and proposals that it plans to bring before the county next month.

"Those people are pretty committed to that," he said. "I'm sure they don't think anything can be better than what they have planned."

According to a company-released timeline, a site for a new facility should be finalized this month, and construction may begin as early as August. Construction is set to be completed in spring 2013, well before January 2014, when Blaine Manor levy funding was set to expire and Croy Canyon was meant to open.

The facility's blueprints are not drawn up yet, but Burpee said the building will include a 10-bed secured dementia unit, 16 private skilled-nursing units, 24 semi-private skilled-nursing units and 30 units of assisted living.

Assisted living will include several studio apartments for low-income seniors as well as more spacious units. The facility will accept both Medicare and Medicaid patients as well as private pay, with no set ratio setting a minimum number of private-pay patients.

The plan comes at a time when the county's discussion over senior care has begun to focus on whether the best solution for seniors may be a privately owned and/or privately operated facility, rather than one that would rely on ongoing county subsidies.

County commissioner Larry Schoen said during an interview Wednesday that he believes a private corporation like Safe Haven might be the best—and most fiscally responsible—option for senior care in Blaine County.

"The idea that a third party could come into our community and offer a home to all of our residents at Blaine Manor and relieve the county of this responsibility and end the subsidy and allow the county to dispose of the Blaine Manor property, thereby putting that money into the county's treasury ... that would be an excellent outcome, from my point of view," he said.

Though Croy Canyon Ranch would also be considered a privately owned facility, it would be a nonprofit, as opposed to the for-profit Safe Haven home. Schoen said he's not certain that Croy Canyon would be the best possible option, fiscally speaking, as the foundation has already asked the county to consider a bond election to fund construction in addition to the $1 million in startup costs the county has advanced the organization. The foundation would also receive any assets from the sales of Blaine Manor.

"Croy Canyon Ranch expects Blaine County to contribute additional public assets to make it work," Schoen said. "Croy Canyon Ranch has had 12 years to be successful."

Kathleen Eder, executive director of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, said her organization still intends to present a business plan to the county, regardless of plans for the Safe Haven facility—and added that the organization's 12 years of fundraising have actually given them an edge over Safe Haven.

"We've been at this longer," she said. "We already own the land, we have a conditional-use permit, we have an agreement with the city of Hailey to be our applicant for a block grant, we have plans done and we've done site work and avalanche studies. We have so many more things in our favor."

Eder said the foundation would continue developing plans and make a pitch to the county next month.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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