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Assisted-living center has financial trouble

January 20, 1999

Assisted Living centerBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




A Hagerstown assisted-living center may have to close its doors, putting the fate of 30 low-income senior citizens up in the air, officials said.

Senior Living Alternatives Inc. needs $11,592 by the end of the month to keep going, said Board President Jean Hettenhouser.

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The nonprofit agency runs Holly House and North Holly, both on South Potomac Street.

Residents there cannot live alone, but are not sick enough to be admitted to nursing homes.

"God forbid if we have to close our doors, where are 30 people going to go?" said Hettenhouser, who manages the Alexander House in Hagerstown.

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The board called an emergency meeting Monday to talk about the problem.

Board members are seeking help from the Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

The nonprofit agency not only needs an immediate monetary shot-in-the-arm, but also a solution to an ongoing budget shortfall, said Manager Melanie Socks.

The center needs to bring in an extra $4,000 a month "just to scrape by," Socks said.

Over the years, expenses in the $434,000 annual budget have gone up, but income has not kept pace, she said.

The center gets money from the residents on a sliding scale that tops out at $976 a month.

The Maryland Office of Aging makes up the difference between that rate and what residents can afford, but only when the money is available, Socks said.

The average resident has a monthly income of $500, which must also pay for medications, she said.

Many of the residents have Alzheimer's Disease. They don't know about the financial problems, although some families are aware and are worried, Socks said.

Some residents don't have any living family members.

Other assisted living centers in the county, such as Homewood and Ravenwood, are for-profit businesses with rates out of reach for the residents, Socks said.

"It's sad. We're hoping someone can do something to subsidize our shortfall," she said.

The center has 14 full-time and two part-time employees, she said.

They are open 24 hours a day to give residents meals, do their laundry, make sure they take their medicine and take them to doctors' appointments, she said.

Senior Living Alternatives has had chronic funding problems, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, who helped start the program in 1988.

"There's no question there's a great need for this facility," said Munson, R-Washington.

The Washington County delegation needs to examine the problem and look for a solution, he said.

The topic is on the agenda for a delegation meeting today.

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