BELLEFONTE — After months of meetings, votes, public feedback and a long transitional period, Centre County is officially out of the nursing home business.
The county officially turns operations over to the Centre Care nonprofit board Friday, a move that will increase Medicaid reimbursements and that the Board of Commissioners is hoping will increase the quality of care.
Despite a small public effort to keep the facility county-operated, the commissioners voted 2-1 to transition the home to a nonprofit in hopes to quell the more than $1 million operating deficit.
“I personally have tried very hard to make Centre Crest viable,” Commissioner Chris Exarchos said at the June meeting when the vote took place. “Frankly, I’ve come to the conclusion that counties really shouldn’t be in the nursing home business, and I think the data will support me.”
Commissioner Michael Pipe voted against the transfer, explaining that he didn’t think all options were exhausted and he wanted to do everything he could to keep it in county hands.
Centre County isn’t alone in taking a county-owned nursing home out of the government’s control, but the commissioners did buck the statewide trend: More than 10 counties have gotten out of the business since 2004, but Centre County is the only one that didn’t sell its facility outright.
The commissioners began forming the nine-member community board in June, and after more than four months of paperwork and learning the ropes, it’s time for the real test to begin.
Centre Care’s main goal is to raise the level of care at the one-star facility while keeping all of the beds Medicare eligible. It will continue to work with the management company, Complete HealthCare Resources.
With the government out of the equation, board President Betsy Boyer said, the nonprofit can have a greater hand in management.
“That’s our goal is that we will have the hands-on,” she said. “We will be closer.”
Boyer and other members of the board are in the facility at least once a week looking at resident or staff needs.
Centre Care has been reaching out to the public throughout the process and will continue to do so. There will be an official passing of the keys ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday at the home, during which the community and residents will get another chance to meet the new directors.
Throughout the discussion and period of uncertainty, the number of residents in the 240-bed facility dipped into the low 200s, but after the decision it has gone back up to the temporary cap of 225 with a waiting list starting to form.
Commissioners’ Chairman Steve Dershem and his two colleagues will no longer have control of the facility, but he said he thinks it’s for the best and that he has full confidence in Centre Care to make the home a better place.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.