Three years after stepping in to provide adult day health services for chronically ill and disabled Whatcom County residents when another program closed, Christian Health Care Center has decided to close its day health program as well.
The only adult day health program in Whatcom County, with about 65 clients, will close Aug. 10, when the Northwest Adult Day Health & Wellness Center in Lynden closes after that last day of service.
Rising costs, stagnant revenues and increased governmental regulations were the reasons for the decision, according to a statement from Christian Health.
“We had approved the subsidization of this health and wellness program while staff was diligently working to increase enrollment to a level that would allow the program to at least break even or significantly decrease the financial gap,” said Don Kok, vice chair of Christian Health’s board of directors and adult day health committee member.
“Rising costs and flat reimbursement rates prevented that goal from being achieved so we had to make the difficult decision to close the program,” Kok said.
He said the board was “completely committed to these individuals.”
“We want to make sure they are taken care of as this program ends,” Kok added.
The nonprofit said it has had to “significantly subsidize” adult day health and could no longer do so in order to maintain its financial integrity. The organization also operates a nursing home.
Representatives declined to reveal the amount of the subsidy.
Christian Health said it will help as many clients as possible find other services.
It also will try to put affected employees — there are 14 — into other jobs in its system. Some workers already have made other plans, including retirement and moving on to other jobs, officials said.
Christian Health took over the program after PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center told clients it would stop providing the services at the end of 2014, after doing so for about 37 years in Bellingham.
Under an agreement that began at the start of 2015, PeaceHealth leased space at its South Campus on East Chestnut Street to Christian Health Care Center for a nominal amount and agreed to provide program assistance and operational support, such as food, security and janitorial services.
That allowed adult day health services to continue there until Aug. 3, 2015, when Christian Health opened what was then the new 5,400-square-foot Northwest Adult Day Health & Wellness Center at 851 Aaron Drive.
Older adults and people with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, Parkinson’s and early onset Alzheimer’s, receive help from health care providers at the center. The goal is to build strength and help older adults continue living in their homes.
Services are provided Monday through Friday, although some clients access them at the center just once or twice a week. They include monitoring clients’ overall health, managing their medications and improving balance and mobility as well as meeting social, spiritual and creative needs.
The center also offers Caregiver Connection meetings in Bellingham and Lynden to provide support and education to family caregivers.
Christian Health said it has notified community partners such as Northwest Regional Council, Alzheimer Society of Washington and Elder Service Providers, which will provide information and help to families.
Christian Health representatives said they weren’t alone in struggling to provide adult day health services, describing an industry crisis that has led to closures in Colorado, California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Northwest Adult Day Health & Wellness Center staff talked to 14 programs in Washington state and many were struggling financially, they said.
The issue is that Medicaid reimbursements, which is how most clients pay for their services, have increased by just 2.5 percent since 2015. Expenses, including wages, benefits and insurance, have risen well beyond that level, representatives said.
“Our focus between now and Aug. 10 is on providing adult day health clients and their families with information about other resources they may be able to access in Whatcom County,” said Patrick O’Neill, CEO for Christian Health.
That includes giving clients’ families a list of other resources, including for adult day care, in-home care and assisted living.
The organization will decide what to do with the building at 851 Aaron Drive later.