By CARL GREEN
Girard, IL – An important community nursing home with 61 elderly and disabled residents and more than 60 employees, serving a large area of southwestern Illinois, is being shut down in part because the state of Illinois owes it more than $2 million in pending and approved Medicaid payments.
Pleasant Hill Healthcare, of Macoupin County, just north of the St. Louis area, provides skilled care to Alzheimer’s patients among its residents.
State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who represents the area, called the closing “the latest example of downstate Illinois bearing the brunt of the Rauner administration’s unrelenting drive to achieve savings at any cost.”
The home, associated with Church of the Brethren, has operated in Girard since 1905, when it was founded to help orphans and seniors in need. The home’s board has announced it will close Sept. 1.
Manar said the closing is part of a bigger story. “The backlog of Medicaid determinations under the Rauner administration will continue to push rural nursing homes that already face significant financial pressures to extinction,” he said. “Some of these facilities are barely hanging on as it is because of the state.
“The governor needs to understand the effects of his policy decisions on real families,” Manar said. “With every nursing home closure on his watch, fragile residents will be uprooted, their families will go through emotional upheaval and more downstate workers will be on the unemployment line.”
$300 MILLION OWED STATEWIDE
Comptroller Susana Mendoza says private nursing homes are fronting the state $300 million for residential care in the state’s Medicaid backlog, and 15,000 people are waiting for Medicaid eligibility determinations from the state. That’s nearly triple what the backlog was in August 2014.
“Nursing homes across the state continue to feel the impacts of the two-year budget impasse and are squeezed by other factors, such as reimbursement rates that don’t cover the true cost of patient care,” Mendoza said. “The Rauner administration’s gross mismanagement of the Medicaid program and inability to process patients’ eligibility in a timely way is pushing these already stressed facilities to the brink of fiscal disaster.”
Pleasant Hill’s independent and assisted-living facility with 48 apartments will remain open, but its skilled nursing home with 98 beds and specialized 24-hour care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is scheduled to close. The combined facilities are known as Pleasant Hill Village.
PATIENTS AND STAFF
WICS Channel 20 interviewed Billy Walters, whose amnesiac mother lives at the home. Walters said his mother has been comfortable at Pleasant Hill, adding, “It’s going to be pretty hard for us to find another place.”
Jeanne Manning, a bed-bound resident, said she’s worried for herself but also for the employees who will be laid off.
“I love all of them,” she said. “I love all the staff, and I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been great.”
Administrator Maryann Walker said she hopes lawmakers will act in time to save other homes from closing. “Maybe our journey will not be in vain,” she said. “Maybe somebody else won’t have to go through this.”
In its notice of closing, the Pleasant Hill board said the staff will work with families and the state to relocate the residents. “We intend to accomplish this in an orderly and compassionate manner,” the board said.
But they aren’t waiting around to see if the Legislature will act – Pleasant Hill held an open house on July 5 to help employees find jobs and residents find homes.
A Department of Human Services spokesman said part of the problem is how long it takes applicants to provide required financial documents to determine eligibility. She said the department has expanded staff working on the cases from 220 to 310 and is continuing to seek ways to speed the process.