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The Samaritan Senior Village project will add both assisted living and nursing home space for seniors.

New elder care facility will fill urgent need in Jefferson County

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Ground was broken last month on a new elder care facility in the town of Watertown - the Samaritan Senior Village project. The facility will include both nursing home and assisted living beds for up to 288 residents. Community members say the project was badly needed to fill a gap, especially in assisted living space, for older residents. Joanna Richards has the story.

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Reported by

Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

The greatest need is for assisted living spaces for elderly people covered by Medicaid. The new Senior Village will have room for 80, says Krista Kittle. She's a spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center, which is creating the new elder care facility.

"Right now, we do have some assisted living in the community – very little – but it is self-pay. So those people who do not have the financial resources to go into that level of care have no alternative. Therefore, they're placed in, many times, a nursing home, which is a higher level of care than what they really need."

That makes nursing home beds and inpatient beds scarce too, for patients who really need them, Kittle says. It also means patients and hospitals are paying for more care than is needed. 

Many people needing nursing home care end up going outside the area. That takes them far away from their families and communities. That's a real burden for people in their senior years who don't want to be uprooted from their family and social connections.

The Samaritan Senior Village project will add both assisted living and nursing home space for seniors. It has been in the works for five to seven years, Kittle says. But the project gained urgency after Watertown's Mercy Care Center was threatened with closure after several rounds of bankruptcy.

Kittle says the loss of Mercy would have taken a huge toll not only on patients and their families, but on the local medical system as a whole:

"Those patients would end up in our emergency departments. Those patients would end up far, far away from their families. The impact that that would have number one on emergency care, the backup in the system, elective surgeries, for example – people come in for elective surgeries and need a hospital bed. There wouldn't have been one available because those long-term care residents would have been there because Mercy had closed. So the impacts to this were huge."

For families, this was not merely a matter of having senior relatives living at a facility an hour away in Syracuse. Kittle says many of Mercy's former residents would have gone as far away as Buffalo or New York City in the search for nursing home space.

In fall of 2010, Samaritan became receiver for Mercy, which saved the facility for the time being. About 150 to 160 people live there now.

But Mercy's facility is deteriorating. Both Mercer's and the county's Whispering Pines adult homes will close when the Samaritan Senior Village opens on outer Washington Street in Watertown. The project is being funded by a state grant that will also help pay for a smaller senior facility in Carthage being built by Carthage Area Hospital. Jefferson County and Samaritan Medical Center are also contributing to the $72 million Watertown project. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown.

 

 

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