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Roanoke City Hides Expansion Plans for Countryside

Plans showing the proposed layout for Kissito Healthcare if Roanoke City approves the project.

by Valerie Garner

A prominent Healthcare Company’s first property choice for their state of the art “PACE Center” is the city-owned Countryside Golf Course. But somehow no one seemed to know about it while the fate of the controversial property was being debated and planned over the last several months.

It was a happenstance lunch with the CEO of Roanoke headquartered Kissito Heathcare, Tom Clarke, recently that contradicted the Roanoke City Planning Department’s claim that no one had inquired about doing anything with the city-owned Countryside golf course property. The contradiction stemmed from repeated inquiries by Countryside property owners and Planning Commission members. For months they were collaborating on a Master Plan for the property at city council’s direction. The city-owned golf course was closed March 1, 2010.

The luncheon revealed that on September 21, 2010 Planning Department staff along with Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend gave Kissito representatives a presentation on the property. Kissito then shared their vision with them. At the time Mr. Clarke stressed that time was of the essence.

Approval for “Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly” (PACE) came for Roanoke’s Kissito Healthcare the last week of March. Kissito is a nonprofit that runs a series of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and medical facilities in Virginia, Texas and Arizona. They have 800 employees.

Virginia’s state approval was based on Kissito being able to open their PACE center by the summer of 2012. That would mean Kissito would have to break ground by August 1st of this year. The city of Roanoke says that won’t happen. Kissito will now have to open somewhere else and hopefully transition to the Countryside property later pending the City’s approval.

No one at the Planning Department would return Clarke’s phone calls and e-mails.

Top officers of the nonprofit organization accompanied the CEO to city council on April 4. Though Mr. Clarke was only allowed to speak three minutes, council members spent fifteen minutes expounding on the process that needed to be followed. The public appearance did, however, get responses from the Planning Department as directed by Mayor Bowers.

Their plans were to build the PACE Center, day care and move their headquarters, now located at ValleyPointe Parkway, to part of the city-owned Countryside property. As contemplated, the plan would bring about 200 new jobs to the Roanoke area and all indications are that Kissito is not deterred by the snail’s pace of Roanoke City government red tape.

Monday night 50 members of the Countryside neighborhood voted to support the Kissito Healthcare proposal and not support the Master Plan unless it is included.

The second phase of Kissito’s program would include a home-like adult foster care concept. The state of Virginia does not currently have an adult foster care program. The concept may take legislative action and legislators are “a little bit slow,” said Sam Rasoul, Kissito’s Chief Financial Officer.

Kissito would be the first PACE center in Virginia and possibly the country to provide elder foster care. They have already spent $100,000 on architectural design concepts for the property by Roanoke’s John Fulton Associates, LLC.

It is about “keeping people safe and healthy … that is the real part of a health care reform solution,” said Rasoul. It is a wellness-based model. If a PACE participant went to a hospital it could cost up to $5000 a day.

According to Vice-Mayor and Geriatric Psychiatrist Dr. Dave Trinkle, Clarke has been working with Dr. Aubrey Knight and Carilion’s Geriatric Department. They “will at some point probably have an agreement with them.”

The PACE model has been around since 1985. The closest one in Virginia is in Lynchburg. Participants are primarily on Medicare and Medicaid.

Kissito, as a PACE provider, would receive about $6000 per participant. Medicare compensates about $3500 and Medicaid $2700. Instead of being in a nursing home they would be cared for at a PACE center costing less while receiving the level of care they need.

Virginia would save on a daily basis 25 to 30 percent of nursing home costs. It is even possible to give family members a small stipend to stay home with their elderly relative rather than having someone come in from outside. The dilemma for many children of aging parents is time. Often both children work and are struggling with their own finances.

Rasoul said, “something’s got to give … we have an aging demographic.” It is stretching Medicare and Medicaid to the limit. These are people that just need assistance with activities of daily living that are placed in nursing homes as an only option.

Kissito will be the only PACE provider is this region.  A region serves participants within a one-hour radius of a center.

Former Governor Tim Kaine was the first to welcome the PACE program to Virginia and was an avid supporter.

Under the PACE program it is a “logistical operation … we use a combination of tactics,” said Rasoul. A Kissito PACE program participant could use in-home help or be picked up from their home and taken to the adult daycare center. One doctor is always on staff.

Kissito Healthcare International also operates as a nonprofit in Africa, the Philippines, and Haiti. Kissito Healthcare International serves the world’s most vulnerable people. CEO Tom Clarke is currently in Africa.

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