Program to provide medicine, services for elderly

What was once the Dale Jarrett building on U.S. 70 could have a new future as a facility that provides care for the Hickory Metro's aging population.

Programs for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) are Medicare programs for adults ages 55 and older living with disabilities. Area officials want to use the former Dale Jarrett building in Hickory to house PACE and improve accessibility to services for Catawba County's aging population.

PACE is designed to reduce the cost burden to the elderly, many of whom struggle to make ends meet because of increasing health care costs.

Federally funded PACE programs help elderly adults pay for services associated with aging, including prescription drugs, home care and emergency services.

Officials from the PACE program presented the concept to the Catawba County Board of Commissioners on Monday at its regularly scheduled meeting.

Four area entities, including Adult Life Programs, Lutheran Services for the Aging, Catawba Valley Medical Center and Palliative CareCenter and Hospice of Catawba Valley, are involved in the project.

PACE participants must be 55 or older, live in a PACE service area, have a certified need for a nursing-home level of care and be able to live safely within the community.

PACE provides all services covered by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as medically necessary care and services not provided by Medicare and Medicaid.

Although the PACE facility will be located in Catawba County, its services are also available to residents of surrounding counties who live within a 45-minute commute of the facility.

"It's not necessarily defined by county lines," said PCHCV president David Clarke. "It's more about transportation."

The 45-minute transportation radius opens PACE to about 40-50 percent of residents in Burke, Caldwell and Alexander counties, as well as the entirety of Catawba County.

Vice president of clinical services Michelle Roseman said officials conducted a feasibility study to determine the number of patients a PACE facility is likely to have. The study revealed that, in five years, Catawba County and the surrounding area can anticipate $12 million in federal and state funds from PACE and 59 full-time equivalent jobs.

North Carolina has a PACE facility in Wilmington and Burlington, and additional facilities are slated for Fayetteville and Greensboro. If the Hickory facility is approved, it will be the fifth in the state and the only program in Western North Carolina.

Clarke said the Hickory facility will service about 160-170 people. The facility is required to meet state and federal safety regulations for adult care programs, medical clinics, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.

PACE compiles services from all aspects of elderly care into one facility. A team of health care professionals works with patients and their families to determine a customized approach to each individual's situation.

PACE provides transportation to medically necessary appointments to the PACE center, including physical activities and other required visits.

The presentation required no action from county commissioners, but several commissioners expressed their support of PACE's programs for Catawba County's elderly population.

Clarke and Roseman said the program is currently in the application process, where officials submit documentation for center approval. That process takes about 90 days. The next step of the process is for a PACE representative to visit and approve the Hickory facility.

Clarke expects Catawba County's PACE facility to open in August or September.

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