A personal experience caring for his aging mother prompted Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton's decision to contribute $2,500 in county funds to the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's acquisition of The Haven, an assisted living facility in Hayden.
Hampton's mother was 94 and living in a senior center similar to Craig's Sunset Meadows. As it became evident that she needed assistance, Hampton took her to visit the six assisted-living homes in her area.
Those six homes provided her with choices when she had to make a change in her life, Hampton said.
After relating this experience, Hampton cast the swing vote in favor of donating funds to The Haven.
VNA Board Member Pres Askew described the contribution as a symbolic gesture that would demonstrate the community's support of the merger to potential grant sources.
But the contribution request has been criticized by the owners of two Craig elderly assisted living facilities. They say the contribution amounts to government subsidization of an organization that competes with their private businesses.
Much of the problems have stemmed from a lack of communication, Askew said. He promised to try to remedy that.
"We have not done a good job communicating with local facilities," Askew said. "I am personally committed to working with local facilities."
VNA Director Sue Birch has denied that The Haven will compete with Craig's local facilities -- Rainbow Living Center, The Jewel and Sandrock Ridge Care and Rehab -- because The Haven accepts Medicaid clients.
However, Sandrock Ridge, a skilled nursing facility, also accepts Medicaid.
The facilities generally serve clients with different needs, though there are "gray areas" where services overlap, Sandrock Ridge Administrator Mitch Friedman said.
It took the commissioners three weeks to make the decision. Commissioners Darryl Steele and Marianna Raftopoulos were deadlocked about the issue.
On Tuesday morning, Steele wouldn't even second Hampton's motion to vote on the issue.
Raftopoulos' reasons for voting to contribute were similar to Hampton's.
"I, as a citizen of Moffat County, want to have that choice, and I also believe government has to support that in certain ways," Raftopoulos said.
The commissioners had previously unanimously voted to send a letter to the state Department of Local Affairs in support of a Routt County grant request on behalf of The Haven and the VNA.
"What we voted to support, I think, was Routt County's grant application. I didn't vote to support Moffat County participation to support competition with private enterprise in Moffat County," Steele said.
The VNA has not yet taken over The Haven. The VNA plans to purchase it for $750,000 in an effort to provide sustainable elderly care in the Yampa Valley, Birch said.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.