New center for adult day health services to open in Lynden this summer

Adult day health services, which serves chronically ill and disabled clients, will move from Bellingham this summer when a new 5,700-square-foot center is completed in Lynden.

The Northwest Adult Day Health & Wellness Center is being built at 851 Aaron Drive, next to the Christian Health Care Center nursing home.

Christian Health will offer adult day health services to all Whatcom County residents out of the new space.

It has been doing so at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center’s South Campus in Bellingham since the start of 2015.

“The place is absolutely beautiful. The yard is huge. You can see the patio now. We’ve got great big windows,” said Anita Tallman, director of Christian Health Care Center, of the building’s progress in Lynden.

About 45 clients could be served per day at the new center.

“We think there’s plenty of room for more,” Tallman said.

The project will cost $800,000 to $1 million. The center should open by the second week of August.

“If the building wraps up sooner, we could move sooner,” Tallman said.

PeaceHealth told clients in late July it would stop operating its Adult Day Health program Dec. 31 — after 37 years in Bellingham — an announcement that surprised and upset the family members who care for those adults. PeaceHealth was the only organization offering such services to Whatcom County residents and the families didn’t know what organization, if any, would pick up the program.

Then Christian Health Care Center said it would take over those services and move them to northern Whatcom County this summer.

Until then, they continue to be offered at the South Campus.

Under an agreement, PeaceHealth is leasing the space 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.

About 78 clients are served in Bellingham now. Of that total, 60 have some form of dementia.

The program’s services include skilled nursing and occupational therapy, social and activity groups, and a hot lunch. Such programs help people with chronic health conditions, including memory loss, depression, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

The goal is to help older adults continue living in their homes instead of needing more expensive care, such as that at nursing homes, prematurely, and to provide a break for their family caregivers during the hours the clients are in the program.

A group that includes the Whatcom Transportation Authority also has been working on the question of how to get clients to the service in Lynden. Families were concerned about having their loved ones in Bellingham, including those who are fragile, travel farther to Lynden.

“We think we have a solution,” Tallman said.

The plan is to have WTA pick up clients, as they do now, in the smaller paratransit buses. They will be taken to a drop-off point at Christ the King Community Church in Bellingham and then all put onto one larger bus, along with caregivers, for the ride north. The return trip will be the same, just in reverse.

The group also is in the beginning stages of a plan to transport people in the northern parts of the county, who previously couldn’t get to Bellingham for adult day health services, to the Lynden center.

That could mean WTA turning over a couple of smaller paratransit buses that are being retired to the nonprofit Christian Health, explained Janet Jensen, ADA eligibility specialist for Whatcom Transportation Authority.

“Those people have been isolated and have not been able to get in because there has not been a transportation potential before,” said Jensen, who also praised the Lynden organization for “solving a huge community problem.”

“The loss of adult day health would have been tragic,” Jensen said. “Those are all our passengers and we care about them.”

For her part, Tallman praised the organizations and community for coming together.

“The help is just incredible,” she said. “It comes from unexpected places. It always fills a need that we have.”

Tallman added: “Everyone wants this to work. It’s a greatly under-served population. People know it and they want to make a difference.”.