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Owner: SSI reimbursement rates force Valehaven to close its doors

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MASSENA - Government reimbursement that isn’t keeping pace with actual costs has forced the closure of the Valehaven Home for Adults in Massena.

“We’ve kept it open because, a, we believe in what we do, and b, we were hoping that things would change,” owner James E. Kane Jr. said.

The announcement was made to staff and residents last Thursday, he said. At the time the decision was made, the facility had 33 residents in the 40-bed facility and a staff of 12 to 13 individuals.

Valehaven is part of Adirondack Manor Homes for Adults, which has its central office in Saratoga and operates 11 licensed adult care facilities in eight counties in upstate New York.

New York law defines an adult home as a licensed adult care facility that provides long-term residential care, including room, all meals and snacks, housekeeping, laundry, 24-hour supervision, assistance with medications, personal care assistance, case management services and structured activity program to people 18 years or older.

Mr. Kane’s father, James E. Kane Sr., opened his first adult home in 1972 in Utica. The family purchased Valehaven in 1974 and “opened a little bit after that,” Mr. Kane said.

“From that point of view, it’s an extremely sad, difficult time for us” to close the facility, he said.

The primary population at the 40-bed facility are individuals over 18 with a mental health diagnoses and people with very few resources, according to Mr. Kane, who became involved with the business in 1984 and became owner in 1996.

Adirondack Manor Homes for Adults receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as their reimbursement for providing housing and taking care of the needs of residents, he said. And that’s what had led to the closure of the Massena facility.

Congregate Care Level III SSI will pay for adult home and enriched housing program services for those who qualify based on income and assets.

“We have been surviving on that for all these years. The rate has been getting further and further behind the cost of doing business,” Mr. Kane said.

He said their current rate of reimbursement is $1,217 a month, or just over $40 a day.

“For $40 a day, we had to provide 24-hour care, 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, activities and case management,” he said. “We’ve been losing money for several years at that location as a result of that.”

The future didn’t seem to paint any brighter picture, Mr. Kane said.

“We’re at a point where we’re looking at a multitude of things. We’re looking at a state budget that is upside down. We’re not seeing any chance on the horizon of an SSI increase. We’re facing Obamacare, which is a big thing for our company. We’re facing a minimum wage increase, which has a significant impact on health care facilities,” he said.

“When you take the prospect of no rate increase coming and hold that against what we see as the expenses that are going to be going up dramatically over the next year, we just can’t do it any longer. As much as we want to, it’s impossible,” Mr. Kane said.

He said they will be assisting the residents in finding acceptable housing.

“It’s not easy. We’re lucky enough that we do have some other facilities, including one in Malone. For those residents that choose that option, we will transfer those that we can to those other facilities. It’s always the resident’s choice. They have the power in this situation,” Mr. Kane said.

Employees could also be reassigned if they desired, he said.

“The problem is most of them are all local people from Massena. For most of them, they would need to completely relocate or drive at a minimum 45 minutes to Malone,” he said.

In order to close the facility, Mr. Kane said they had to submit a closure plan to the Department of Health. That plan was recently approved, and they made the announcement to staff and residents last Thursday.

“We started this process a couple of months ago,” he said.

The closing date has not been finalized, according to Mr. Kane.

“The reality is it’s going to take whatever amount of time it takes. We won’t close until the residents are taken care of,” he said.

There are no immediate plans to close any of their other facilities, but he said closing the Massena home was hard enough.

“It’s not a decision we took lightly. We thought about this for two years now and kept delaying it hoping things would change,” Mr. Kane said.

“I met with Angela Doe, director of Community Services for St. Lawrence County. She was very helpful. She was very encouraging. She certainly expressed a desire for us to stay open. She kind of reinvigorated me in terms of trying to make it work. We hung in there for another six to eight months. But I’m not a big enough company. We’re a small family that’s been doing this for a long time. We’re just not in a position to carry on,” he said.

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