County investment in Lasata begins to pay off

Senior care campus off tax rolls, to make payment in lieu of taxes after decision to remodel home rather than close it

LASATA HEIGHTS RESIDENTS Frieda Stengel (left) and Mary Hundertmark are members of a baking group at the facilty and baked some goodies last week for a benefit bake sale. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

For the first time since 2014, the Lasata Care Center campus in Cedarburg will not require levy support from Ozaukee County taxpayers in 2019 and should be self-sufficient for years to come.

In addition, the facility is making a $50,000 in-lieu-of taxes contribution to the county general fund. 

Making the facility self-sufficient and not a drain on taxpayers has long been a goal of county leaders, who at one time considered getting out of the nursing home business.

“The County Board had a philosophical discussion (over a decade ago) and decided that we owe it to our senior citizens to provide these services,” county Administrator Jason Dzwinel said. “At the time we were one of only two Medicaid facilities in the county so the County Board made that decision that we are in the nursing home business.”

Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income or disabled individuals, does not cover the costs of providing nursing home care. A Medicaid patient currently costs the county about $150 more than what Medicaid provides, Dzwinel said.

To offset that cost, supervisors decided to change Lasata’s business model to draw more Medicare and private-pay residents, Dzwinel said.

Doing so meant, instead of closing down Lasata, expanding it and upgrading its facilities to create a continuum-of-care campus that would offer independent and assisted living housing options competitive with privately owned facilities.

“We changed the business model and that has played out,” Dzwinel said. 

Lasata Senior Campus Director Amanda Kohal agreed.

“We needed to catch up with industry standards and attract the clients that our competitors were bringing in their doors and we’ve been able to do that,” she said. “The community has always known we provided quality care and services and now we have upgraded our facilities and that’s a reason we have had success.”

In addition to the Lasata Care Center, a 136-bed rehabilitation and skilled care nursing facility, the Lasata campus includes:

• Lasata Crossings, a 60-unit Residential Care Apartment Complex assisted living facility.

• Lasata Heights, a 60-unit apartment building for independent seniors over age 62.

In 2018, $620,000 in revenue from Lasata Crossing was transferred to Lasata Care Center. The 2019 county budget forecasts that amount dropping to $490,000 due to a competing private-care facility opening adjacent to the Lasata campus this year.

The county projects spending almost $14.66 million in 2019 to operate the care center, $764,109 to operate Lasata Heights and $2.87 million to operate Lasata Crossings.

Starting in 2015, the county undertook a massive renovation of the care center, costing more than $10 million. In addition, it also hit the facility on the revenue side.

“The loss of funds was a little greater than we anticipated,” Dzwinel said.

During that process, the county did not raise rates on residents, who were suffering enough with the renovation.

“We were rehabbing their home,” Dzwinel said.

  Those renovations including replacing and upgrading the facility’s mechanical systems, remodeling residents’ rooms, upgrading the beauty shop, creating new private rehabilitation suites for short-term stays, nursing stations were relocated closer to rooms and dining facilities, social areas and rehabilitation facilities were added or expanded.

“Everything is so much more homelike,” Kohal said.

Can Lasata continue to be self-sustaining? Officials think so, with some caveats.

“We believe so,” Dzwinel said. “If the market doesn’t change significantly over the short term we should be in a period of stability over the next few years.

“We do rely heavily on some state funding and the feds control the Medicaid and Medicare rates. Any fluctuations in those could have an effect.”

The county plans to spend $30,000 in 2019 to study the viability of a community-based residential facility, or CBRF, on the Lasata campus and provide a level of care between what’s offered at the Heights and the Crossings, Dzwinel said.

“A CBRF would help close the continuum of care,” he said. “We have about 20 residents who have to leave. This would give them a way to stay home. It will also help us continue the mission to keep the nursing home in place.”

 

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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