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Holly Place meeting yields no long-term solutions

February 11, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Doug Wright traveled to the state capital Thursday seeking a solution for Holly Place and Holly Place North, assisted living facilities that serve low-income senior citizens with medical issues.

But he heard little in the way of a long-term answer for the homes' financial difficulties, and was advised to reconsider their mission.

Wright, president of Senior Living Alternatives Inc., which runs Holly Place, told a group of state officials that the agency had followed the state's advice several years ago to seek aid through the Medicaid Waiver for Older Adults program, a state-administered program that provides subsidies for seniors who qualify to live in community housing rather than going to nursing homes. With a limited number of waivers available, tightened restrictions on how waivers are distributed and a waiting list of eligible clients seeking them, the number of qualified Holly Place residents has dwindled.

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"We stayed with that plan, but the plan changed," Wright said.

The Holly Place homes are scheduled to close March 18.

While Gov. Robert Ehrlich has added money to this year's budget proposal for 175 more Medicaid waivers statewide, regulations prohibit the state from designating that any of them go to a particular facility.

Van T. Mitchell, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, suggested that Senior Living Alternatives look at alternatives such as charging residents according to a sliding scale. "Are there people who can pay more?" he asked. He said changing the agency's mission to allow private pay residents could help, and said even if the state had not tightened its restrictions, Holly Place would be facing deficits of more than $130,000.

"We just don't have the blank check to help in the short-term scenario today," Mitchell said.

Wright said his board had not changed its mind about its mission. "I think it's critically important that we continue to serve the low-income" clients, he said. "I hope the solution is not to dedicate beds to people who can pay more."

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, pointed out that a Boonsboro-area facility changed its mission and allied with a large elder care agency in order to stay open. The solution Wright was after, he said, "is not tenable, so are there any other possibilities?"

"Wouldn't it be better to have half the mission than no mission at all?" said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, asked Mitchell and Maryland Office on Aging officials to look at how other facilities in the state were affected by the changes in the Medicaid waivers. "Are there other Holly Places out there?" he asked. "If we could identify them all throughout the state we could attack it statewide."

Several community sources have offered short-term funding to help. Mayor William Breichner, who attended the meeting, said the City of Hagerstown would offer $40,000 to Holly Place. The city already gives some money to the facilities, he said.

Without a permanent solution, Wright said he couldn't promise would-be donors that Holly Place would stay open, and some had backed off.

Mitchell vowed to keep looking for options and information, and offered to visit Hagerstown to see Holly Place firsthand.

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