Next year, Herkimer County’s seniors will have another option for long-term care.
Valley Health Services of Herkimer recently closed on the purchase of 220-acres of land in the town of Herkimer that will be home to a projected $12 million assisted living and enriched housing facility.
The project is a longtime coming after Valley Health officials and the Herkimer County Legislature failed to reach an agreement on a facility proposed at Herkimer County Community College.
“Basically, the land agreement couldn’t be worked out,” county Administrator James Wallace said. “What happened if it went belly up was the issue. We really tried hard.”
Valley Health in 2010 pursued buying Country Manor in Herkimer and renovating the adult home into an assisted living facility. Chief Executive Officer and Administrator Lisa Betrus, however, had said repairs would exceed a $4.2 million state grant.
Now, Betrus said, Valley Health officials will break ground at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at a site on Pine Grove Road. The 46-unit facility is expected to employ 27 people with jobs ranging from administration to nursing.
Valley Health has a $5.2 million state grant and an almost $1.8 million economic development grant. Betrus said the remainder will be funded through private foundations, grants and bank financing.
The facility will be able to accommodate 48 residents, Betrus said, with two of the studio apartment-style units housing couples. Of the 46 units, 36 are eligible for the Assisted Living Program, or Medicaid residents.
“What we’re creating is another option to home,” she said. “It will allow people to stay independent.”
One of the main components of the facility is an integrated center for health care worker training.
“The learning lab and classroom is very unique to this building,” Betrus said. “We wanted to integrate the learning environment with the living environment.”
Not only will Valley Health train its employees there, she said area colleges such as HCCC, Utica College and SUNYIT, among others, also could benefit.
“We already have an agreement of training of direct health care workers and will expand on that,” said HCCC President Ann Marie Murray said. “We’re all about education, so anything that allows us to partner with an industry in any way to increase workforce skill that’s what we’ll do.”
Currently, the county does not have an assisted living facility option.
Valley Health’s Assistant Administrator Kathy Eisenhut said that a 2010 feasibility study indicated that within a 20-mile radius of Herkimer, 629 people would qualify for enriched housing.
Plus, Betrus said there are some residents who find themselves in a nursing home when they don’t need to be.
Page 2 of 2 - “(Nursing homes) are geared to someone who truly requires 24-hour care,” she said. “Nine residents (at Valley Health) could be moved out of here tomorrow.”
There is an anticipated $1 million annual savings in Medicaid with the new facility available, and Betrus said it would free up nursing home beds for those who really need it.
The wait list for nursing home care at Valley Health is more than 35, she said.
The 220-acre purchase was not fluke either.
“For us to be innovative and forward thinking we needed land,” Betrus said.
The county’s population continues to age, creating that need.
In 2010, about 16.5 percent of the population was 65 years and older. That is projected to increase to 25.7 percent by 2030, Eisenhut said.
The facility is designed in a way that officials later can expand on it, she said.
And even if Country Manor eventually is converted to an assisted living facility, Betrus said there still are plenty of residents to go around.
“I see there being so much need that I don’t see it being an impediment,” she said.