One of Whatcom County’s few group homes for adults with developmental disabilities is expected to close by the end of this year, a victim of rising costs and Medicaid cuts.
Pine Street Home, an adult family home in Lynden, is losing about $60,000 every year, said George Beanblossom, executive director of Cascade Connections, which runs the facility. It’s one of just eight group homes serving 67 people countywide, according to state Department of Social and Health Services records. Beanblossom said there’s a shortage of homes for developmentally disabled adults statewide, and many have long waiting lists.
“With the minimum wage law and other regulations that are coming, it’s just gotten worse and worse,” Beanblossom said. “It’s not that we’re against that (minimum wage). People need to get paid in order to live. It’s just that we’re not getting reimbursed enough from Medicaid. We need to be able to pay our bills. We’re a nonprofit.”
Having his own place at Pine Street was like getting his independence back.
John Bosman, father of a resident with MS
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Medicaid reimbursement is $60 a day for each of Pine Street’s six residents, he said. In addition to the Pine Street Home, Cascade Connections also operates Cascade Christian Home, offers home care for people with disabilities, vocational services and training for home care aides. Beanblossom said they’re thinking of closing the home by August and then putting the house on the market.
Pine Street Home is unique among similar facilities, he added, because its residents develop a sense of camaraderie by living together, sharing household duties and activities.
“They can’t do the things that you and I do,” he said. “They need help in different areas,” such as taking medication on time, showering or cooking a meal. “All the things that you and I take for granted. The people who are living there are pretty active. They have jobs here, they go to church, they have a community and friends here.”
Pine Street was such a good place for him. It allowed him to have friends for the first time.
Jamie Vitale, whose son has a chromosomal disorder
Beanblossom worries that Pine Street Home’s residents will be forced into apartments where they won’t have the same social interactions, or into group homes with elderly and infirm patients. He and others in the organization will be working to find suitable housing for the current residents.
“We’re really committed to these guys,” he said. “We know them and we know their families. We can’t just kick them out. That’s not what this agency is about.”
Jamie Vitale of Mount Vernon, whose 27-year-old son Ricky Manwill moved into Pine Street Home in 2015, said her family is devastated by the news – it took four years to get Manwill into Pine Street.
“It’s been just the best thing for him,” Vitale said. “He is pretty independent. He can feed and dress himself. He can get to work, but he needs somebody to help.”
Manwill has trisomy 9P, a rare chromosomal disorder.
“He functions at a third-grade level. He can hear you but he can’t speak,” Vitale said. Her son communicates in sign language and other nonverbal ways, she said. He does janitorial work at a daycare center in Bellingham, rides the bus on his own, and he enjoys movies and video games.
“Pine Street was such a good place for him. It allowed him to have friends for the first time. He’d ride his bike to the library and be independent as possible under the circumstances. He needs to be able to have that ability, that freedom.”
John Bosman of Everson said “the boys” at Pine Street were dismayed when they were informed of the home’s closing Tuesday. His son Galen Bosman, 48, has multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease, and has suffered a stroke and seizures in recent years. Galen Bosman was among the home’s first residents when it opened 10 years ago.
“Having his own place at Pine Street was like getting his independence back,” John Bosman said. “It improved his mental health and his physical health. It was like a family there.”
John Bosman said he’d spent most of Wednesday in the telephone with state officials, weighing his options for Galen.
“They don’t have any answers, really,” he said. “Most of the homes I visit are for aged people, mostly Alzheimer’s. That would be a terrible situation for Galen. It’s stressful for all of the boys (at Pine Street). My son, I’m not sure that he understands completely what’s happening.”