Janesville56.3°

Mercy will close assisted living facility

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 3, 2009
— Mercy Health System will close its assisted living facility in Janesville and exit a service area in which it’s experienced declining participation.

Mercy opened its community-based residential facility in 1994 with 60 beds. But demand for Mercy’s services has decreased to the point that 28 residents now live in the top floor of the facility at the intersection of Mineral Point Avenue and Franklin Street.


Mercy vice president Dan Colby said the residents and their families learned of the decision Thursday, as did the facility’s 29 employees.


Colby said Mercy would work with employees to find jobs elsewhere in the system that includes 63 facilities in 22 communities in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.


State law mandates that CBRFs remain open for at least 90 days after formally notifying residents of an impending closure.


Colby said the facility will remain open for as long as it takes for the residents to find alternative living arrangements.


“We’ll bend over backward and do whatever it takes to help the residents find new homes,” he said.


If necessary, he said, Mercy would transport residents on visits to other facilities and help them move their belongings when the time comes.


“As long as we need to stay open, we’ll stay open,” he said.


CBRFs offer individualized care services to help preserve the independence of older and disabled individuals. Assisted living facilities can delay or prevent the need for costly nursing home services.


Colby said the local market has changed, with more modern assisted living facilities drawing residents away from Mercy.


“People are looking for nicer facilities with green spaces and amenities that we don’t have,” he said. “There’s really nothing we can do to expand the facility.”


Colby said there’s a trend where residents seek facilities that offer a natural progression of health care services that include condo living, assisted care and nursing home services.


Cedar Crest and Huntington Place in Janesville each offer seniors a living community centered on continuing care.


In Footville, seniors will start moving next week into St. Elizabeth Manor, a new 70-unit assisted living facility. Plans also call for a 45-unit independent living complex for people 55 and over, a hospice care home and a subdivision of residential homes.


Sister Mary Christopher Lemire, the manor’s administrator, said the facility could accommodate the Mercy residents if they choose to move to Footville.


In Evansville, 25 assisted living apartments just opened at The Heights next to the Evansville Manor nursing home.


Colby is confident the local market can quickly accommodate the residents displaced by Mercy’s decision.


“There are more than enough beds in the market,” he said.


Mercy officials have ideas but no specific plans for the 16,000 square feet that the facility’s departure will free up.


The decision to close the assisted living facility follows Mercy’s elimination last year of its Mercy in Motion, adult day care and inpatient hospice care programs. Increasing competition, shrinking reimbursements and an economic downturn punctuated by the shutdown of General Motors in Janesville forced Mercy to sharpen its focus on its core business.


Officials have said the economy has forced the system to reevaluate how far it goes in providing social services.


Mercy’s moves last year triggered an outcry from people who used the services, as well as those concerned that Mercy was abandoning defenseless segments of the community.


Colby said he understands that reaction, but in order to survive, Mercy must focus on its core services.



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