HOLLAND — An aging population and growing demand for services gave a Muskegon-area senior care provider the opportunity to expand and extend its care model into southern Ottawa County.
LifeCircles, a partnership between Mercy Health and Porter Hills Retirement Community, this month opened a $3 million facility in a former retail outlet center in Holland that can serve up to 175 people who meet eligibility requirements. The move came after the nonprofit organization recently completed a $6 million addition and renovation of a facility in Norton Shores that expanded capacity to 350 patients, up from 225 people previously.
The Holland area previously lacked a senior care provider that uses the PACE model — or Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly — that’s designed to provide a full continuum of health care and social services at a single setting. A PACE program is open to people over 55 years old who are living on Medicare or Medicaid — and in many cases are dual-eligible for both.
LifeCircles expanded to the Holland area after securing approval from the state, which under Medicaid rules only allows one PACE program in a given market to avoid service redundancies. The center will serve patients in southern Ottawa County and Allegan County.
“We think the population numbers are going to be there because the population is aging,” said Kurt Sapp, operations director at LifeCircles. “We think we can serve that community very, very well.”
Formed in 2009, LifeCircles provides medical care and social services to elderly clients using the PACE model. Services range from primary specialty medical care and nursing care to physical and occupational therapy, recreation and exercise, nutritional counseling and social services.
The PACE model enables eligible Medicaid and Medicare patients to remain in their homes with the support that LifeCircles provides, rather than move to an assisted-living center or a nursing home. That generates a continuity of long-term care and significant cost savings for Medicaid, while providing a better quality of life and social structure for clients.
Nationwide, there are 100 PACE programs in 32 states that use the care model that was developed in the 1970s and earned approval for Medicaid care in 1997, according to the National PACE Association. Michigan has 11 PACE programs, including those operated by Care Choices in Grand Rapids, CentraCare in Kalamazoo, and PACE of Southwest Michigan in St. Joseph.
Another PACE program is forming to serve Newaygo, Lake, Oceana, Osceola, Mason and Montcalm counties.
A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services credited the care model with generating higher quality and better medical outcomes for patients enrolled in the program.
“This is a great care need. It is what our seniors want and deserve,” said LifeCircles Executive Director Luke Reynolds.
As the baby boomer generation moves further into retirement age, putting greater demands on the health care system, LifeCircles saw the need to expand into an adjoining market from its original location in Norton Shores, which serves Muskegon County and northern Ottawa County.
“There is a tsunami of seniors that are going to need these services,” said Lisa Luckey, manager of community engagement at LifeCircles.
The eventual expansion into the Holland area was identified in the initial feasibility study conducted prior to the opening of LifeCircles, Reynolds said. LifeCircles opened the new center in Holland a year or two earlier than originally planned, he said.
In 2016, LifeCircles expects to develop a new strategic plan to guide the organization for the next three years. Opening a third location is a question to consider for the future, and Reynolds would like to see the organization examine the potential opportunities for LifeCircles to become involved in partnerships that provide affordable senior housing.
The aging population will only drive demand higher, and there’s currently a shortage of affordable senior housing designed specifically for the elderly living on Medicare or Medicaid and their physical abilities.
“Part of the problem is if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have a lot of safe housing options,” Reynolds said.