Regional care company to close; replacement soughtCommunity Health Partnership Inc., a long-term care organization based in Eau Claire, is set to close at the end of the year, including its offices in River Falls, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls.
By: Jeff Holmquist, Editor , River Falls Journal
Community Health Partnership Inc., a long-term care organization based in Eau Claire, is set to close at the end of the year, including its offices in River Falls, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls.
As a result, the clients who receive state Family Care and Family Care Partnership program services through CHP in St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn, Chippewa and Eau Claire counties will have to shift to a new provider.
The Eau Claire-based nonprofit has been on the hot seat for a couple years, after a state-ordered audit of the state’s five managed care organizations indicated that CHP was in serious financial trouble.
This summer CHP, which provides services for about 2,700 frail elderly clients and adults with physical and developmental disabilities in the five-county area, sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services indicating it could no longer afford to provide services to its Family Care clients.
CHP’s 360 employees received notice of the planned closure at meetings held on Sept. 10 and 11. Besides its Eau Claire office, CHP operates branch offices in River Falls, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls.
“It was pretty intense,” CHP Marketing and Communications Manager Dean Mathwig said of the employee meetings. “Any time you have to share that kind of news with 360 employees, it’s not a fun day.”
CHP had hoped to continue operations by contracting with the state to deliver Family Care Partnership services, Mathwig indicated, but the state didn’t want to have separate contractors for the Family Care and Family Care Partnership programs.
“Our primary concern has always been and continues to be the health and well-being of our members,” CHP officials said in a statement released last week. “We will continue to serve our Family Care and Partnership members for the remainder of this year and we will make every effort to work cooperatively with DHS to assure there is a smooth transition of their services to a new MCO or MCOs.”
DHS is now seeking a new managed care organization to operate the programs in west central Wisconsin.
According to Kitty Rhoades, DHS deputy secretary and former state legislator from Hudson, several existing managed care organizations have indicated that they are interested in bidding for the Family Care contract covering this region.
“We don’t want anyone panicking,” she said. “Everything will be OK. People should not be worried. There will be uninterrupted services for all our clients.”
Rhoades said MCOs in other regions of the state have been able to operate within the financial constraints of the state programs. She predicted that a new provider in CHP’s territory would bring more stability to the programs.
Some think the cards are stacked against any organization providing care in these parts, because the five counties apparently have a disproportionate number of clients with disabilities.
After the state closed the Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Chippewa Falls in 2003, many individuals with severe disabilities settled nearby. As a result, the CHP region is underfunded, officials have claimed.
Holly Hakes, director of Aurora Community Services, which provides group-home care across the region, said providers and clients are waiting to see how the situation plays out over the next few months.
“No one is really sure what’s going to happen next,” she said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see like everybody else.”
With CHP’s wildly fluctuating reimbursement rates and the financial instability of Family Care over the past few years, Hakes said the state system is in need of fixing.
She said the state and its residents have a “moral responsibility” to make sure that vulnerable adults get the care they need.
Hakes said it’s unfair to clients and their family members to have to suffer through the uncertainty and stress that has been prevalent in recent years.
“They’re growing tired and weary of all this drama,” she said.
Hakes said her employees continue to provide the best care possible for their clients, but many families have expressed that they are worried about what the future holds.
“We’re trying to reassure people and trying to calm them,” she said.