Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seniors are worthy of local support


I am very upset with the direction the Blaine County commissioners are going with senior care options in Blaine County. The county currently has a skilled-nursing facility—Blaine Manor—which is locally managed and locally supported. However, the previous levy to support the operating losses incurred by Blaine Manor will end in October, and at least two of the county commissioners want to wipe their hands of any future financial support to continue Blaine Manor’s nursing-home operation. A majority of the commissioners see this as a “business deal” and seem adamant about ceasing the county’s financial support of seniors and handing over the care of our vulnerable elders to Safe Haven, an out-of-town entity looking to make a profit. This is deplorable.
    The commissioners maintain that Safe Haven is not requesting any assistance from Blaine County taxpayers and will assume all the risk and losses of running Blaine Manor until the new facility is built. Not true. The commissioners would turn over the Blaine Manor license and certification and move all the existing patients to the new Safe Haven facility to be built in Bellevue by the end of 2014. Blaine County will be filling the beds of a for-profit, nonlocal entity and transferring the valuable skilled-nursing facility license, which Safe Haven has not yet obtained for itself. Blaine Manor is an award-winning skilled-nursing facility; Safe Haven is not.
    I believe that Blaine County seniors, who have paid their taxes for decades, deserve the same quality of care and community support that have made our schools, our recreation district, the YMCA, the Blaine County jail and so many other Blaine County projects the envy of many towns. Blaine County needs a short-term and a long-term solution to the senior care issue, and those solutions are possible with the combined efforts of the current Blaine Manor board of directors and the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, and some financial support from the community in the form of a countywide bond. According to the Treasurer’s Office, an $18 million bond to maintain Blaine Manor short term, and to build the Croy Canyon Ranch facility for the long term, would cost county taxpayers about $6.44 per $100,000 of property value. Yes, it would be paid by taxpayers for 35 years, but a lot of those taxpayers will end up using the facility. The levy rate of .00006435 is less than the rate for the jail bond (.000098634), the recreation levy (.000136291), the Hailey Cemetery (.000138283), the school plant facilities levy (.000710826) and almost all the other items that Blaine County real property tax dollars support. We’re talking about maybe a cup of coffee a month here! And we’re talking about having a new, state-of-the-art, locally controlled and managed, senior care facility. Should seniors be given less attention and care than our children, our outdoor enthusiasts, and our criminals?

This community deserves the right to vote on the type of senior care we want for Blaine County.

    The Safe Haven facility will have no independent-living units. Yet, integrating independent-living residents with the other groups of seniors needing care in a three-tiered facility is the evolving standard of senior care throughout the United States. Utilizing bonds to initially build such facilities is common in other counties and other states. Using a nonprofit entity and philanthropy to augment Croy Canyon Ranch’s amenities and to maintain our local vision of senior care provide options not available to a for-profit entity like Safe Haven.
    Croy Canyon Ranch Continuing Care Community is exactly what Blaine County needs: an attractive location for a state-of-the-art assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility for all socio-economic groups in Blaine County. It is offensive that a majority of the Blaine County commissioners are so willing to turn our current Blaine Manor residents, and our seniors’ futures, over to an outside entrepreneur who has no significant contacts or relationships with our community, instead of working in a cooperative fashion with the Croy Canyon Ranch and Blaine Manor boards to fashion our own, unique brand of Blaine County senior care. This community deserves the right to vote on the type of senior care we want for Blaine County. Before the commissioners unload their responsibilities to the seniors in Blaine County, I think the public should be entitled to vote on a bond to maintain Blaine Manor in the short term and to construct the Croy Canyon Ranch facility. Please, commissioners, don’t shun the seniors. Let us vote!

Janet Wygle is a member of the governing board of the nonprofit Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation. Valley residents Robert Fallowfield and Jennifer Wonder also signed their names to this guest opinion.

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