According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, a personal care home offers housing, meals and assistance with medications and personal care tasks to seniors or people with physical, behavioral health, or cognitive disabilities who are unable to care for themselves but do not need nursing home or medical care.
The Atrium, a nonprofit personal care center in downtown Johnstown was doing just that until Monday, when a press release was sent out stating that the center will be closing permanently, displacing 54 senior residents and resulting in over 40 employees losing their jobs, all in 60 days’ time.
“The Atrium has provided upwards of 400,000 dollars annually in care and unfortunately that just can’t continue to provide that level of charity care and remain open,”
The Atrium’s closing is not an unusual occurrence in today’s system. According to the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association more than 230 personal care homes serving SSI – or Supplemental Security Income- beneficiaries closed during the pandemic due to the low $39 daily reimbursement rate.
“For many years now the Atrium has been providing a very high amount of what we call charity care, or unfunded care, Meaning that the reimbursement for the care received is not as high as the cost to provide that care The challenge is that stipend is just wholly inadequate and doesn’t even come close to the cost of providing the care and services that the residents receive. Just to put it into some perspective, The stipend received through the SSI program for those low-income residents is less than 40 dollars per day. The actual cost to provide care ranges from 115 to 150 dollars per day. So, there’s a daily shortfall per resident of anywhere from 75 to 110 dollars per day. You just can’t afford to continue operating.”
McMullen tells us that the issue is much bigger than the Atrium’s closing, that it emphasizes a public policy issue that does not provide adequate reimbursement to care for the seniors in our commonwealth.
“It exposes a gap in senior services in Pennsylvania, Social security is just not sufficient to pay for personal care services that can range anywhere from four thousand dollars a month to eight thousand dollars a month It’s been heartbreaking for the staff as well as the residents and the family members.”