CARLISLE — A group of Cumberland County residents who fought hard against the sale of the county-owned retirement home to a private operator last year have a new mission, literally. They want proceeds from the county’s ongoing $22.3 million sale of the Claremont Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to be converted into a trust fund to improve existing services for the most needy seniors in the city. county.
The proposed “Claremont Mission Fund” is envisioned as a county-run, community-focused trust whose proceeds would be used exclusively to pay for the type of missions Claremont has traditionally carried out over its 193-year history.
Proponents say it could have a huge impact in the 21st century, providing better services for Medicaid-covered patients upon discharge from hospital; improving community services that help seniors stay in their homes; new workforce development programs aimed at ensuring a strong and deep pool of caregivers in the region.
“It’s kind of a long-term strategic thinking concept for health and elder care,” said proponent Rick Coplen. “One of the things I like to say when we think about government decisions is to think about the impact not just on people today, but on their children, their grandchildren. This does that.
The concept originated with members of Citizens Saving Claremont, the citizens’ group that rallied against the sale last year. But the members said yesterday they thought their new accent would be a positive outcome for everyone, and they demonstrated on Wednesday that they had already won the backing of at least one supporter of the Claremont sale.
Their idea borrows from a similar conversion of proceeds from the sale of the nonprofit Carlisle Hospital into nonprofit Partnerships for Better Health a generation ago. Under this proposal, however, the mission fund would remain under county control, with an advisory committee created to review and recommend potential expenditures on which the commissioners would have final say.
In a concept paper presented to commissioners at a county finance meeting on Wednesday, proponents explained their goals as follows:
“The funds would be invested and only a standard percentage of the fund balance would be used for the needs of the citizens of Cumberland County, which aligns with Claremont’s historic and current mission: to assist the county’s indigent residents and those who are aged and have need long term help. care, including housing, home care and other personal support services.
“…The intent would not be to replace Medicaid-funded services and allow the principal fund balance to grow over time.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Barb Forney, the current president of the Friends of Claremont volunteer auxiliary group, presented the plan; Coplen, a retired army officer and current member of the Carlisle School Board; and Theresa Myers, a resident of Upper Mifflin Township who indicated she supported the sale of Claremont.
“Cumberland County is special, and I think part of that reason is that the county government, with you three leaders, has been innovative as well as good stewards of county money. But this idea, I strongly support it and I hope you will be open to it,” Myers said.
Cumberland commissioners voted 2-1 last July to sell Claremont to New Jersey-based Allaire Health Services after 10 months of negotiations.
Majority commissioners Gary Eichelberger and Vince DiFilippo argued at the time that Claremont had been losing money for years, causing its reserve funds to steadily dwindle to zero. The tipping point to sell the home was a projected financial shortfall of more than $2 million for 2021, the cost of which would have fallen on county ratepayers, they said.
This sale should be completed in the coming weeks.
Proponents of the new Claremont Mission Fund concept argue that now is the time to create this type of safe from the proceeds of the sale given the strong financial position of the county government. They point out in their position paper that the county currently has the highest possible bond rating, AAA, from Standard & Poor’s, and that at the end of 2019, Cumberland had an unrestricted fund balance of $45.2 million. dollars, well above generally accepted target levels. .
“Cumberland County is not in bad shape financially,” Forney said.
This means, according to the group in its concept paper, “there are no urgent competing needs for the windfall of revenue that the sale of Claremont will bring. In fact, the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania seems able to afford to dedicate these funds to continue to benefit the indigent and elderly in Cumberland County.
Commissioners said Wednesday they would take the proposal under advisement, and Foschi went so far as to say she believed the plan had merit.
But Eichelberger noted after the meeting that the net proceeds the county makes from the sale to Allaire will likely be less than the published purchase price. This is due, he said, to a variety of issues ranging from paying off any remaining debt associated with the home, to final resolution with Allaire regarding a pending fire code upgrade and even payment. unpaid bills incurred under county ownership but due after the transfer of ownership.
As hotly debated as the sale of Claremont was, there has been relatively little public discussion about the use of the product.
“As a rule, we don’t spend money we don’t have, so there hasn’t been a detailed review of what would happen to the sale proceeds,” Eichelberger said.
In a state where long-term demographic trends point to an older population with ever-growing needs for health care and other services, supporters of the Claremont Mission Fund say their proposal is a good start. .
“It’s very important that there is a way to continue to care for people who don’t have the money to pay for their care,” Forney said.