Our View: Best interests

Judging from the heated reaction to the commissioner's decision to contribute $2,500 to the Visiting Nurse Association in support of their acquisition of The Haven assisted living facility in Hayden, we thought it would be appropriate to revisit the issue.

We've received several letters criticizing our position, which was this: If commissioners think the acquisition has a long-term benefit for the Yampa Valley (and they wrote a letter stating as much), why wouldn't they support it with a token monetary contribution?

Complicating the issue is that the new commissioners, who are set to take office next week, don't think taxpayer money should be used to assist a nonprofit that competes with local businesses. But they didn't get to make the decision. Outgoing commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton carried the vote in their final meeting as commissioners.

We urged Hampton to vote for the donation because the money was largely symbolic and would allow the VNA to prove to foundations and agencies that the acquisition has the support of local government. Shortly after the editorial was published, Saed Tayyara contacted the Daily Press to voice his disapproval.

Tayyara, one of the new commissioners, said he didn't support the payment but conceded that commissioners probably shouldn't have authored a letter of support if they weren't willing to back it up with funds. He contends that the VNA already gets plenty of support from local governments, along with the United Way and other granting institutions.

In a letter to the editor, Corrie Scott writes: "The Haven is not a 'sorely needed' facility; Sandrock Ridge is more than capable of providing the services we need in Moffat County for our elderly population."

We agree that Sandrock Ridge is an asset to the community, and we've lauded the owners on several occasions for re-establishing a nursing home in Craig. However, we didn't say that The Haven was "sorely needed." We said the services the VNA wants to establish in conjunction with operating The Haven are sorely needed. Those are things such as a senior day care, Section 8 housing, transportation between Craig and Steamboat and hospice care.

If Sandrock Ridge wants to make those services available in Craig, as Scott's letter indicates, then Craig will be all the better for it. And we maintain that if Sandrock Ridge is "competing" with The Haven for Craig's senior population, it has an advantage of being located here, rather than Routt County.

Much of the dialogue thus far has centered on patients who qualify for Medicaid -- the government-funded insurance program for needy people.

Sue Birch, the director of the VNA, maintains that poor reimbursements and cumbersome regulations make it difficult for private providers to make money serving Medicaid patients. Bob Grubb, the owner of Rainbow Living Centers confirmed that he had to stop accepting Medicaid patients at his assisted living home because he couldn't afford the liability insurance premiums needed for a license.

We sympathize with Grubb because we know he gladly would serve Medicaid patients if he could. But doesn't that strengthen the VNA's argument that a nonprofit sometimes is needed to serve those who otherwise would go without?

We've learned that Sandrock accepts Medicaid, which refutes a position that Birch took when she pitched the request to commissioners. But currently, Sandrock is a skilled nursing facility, while The Haven is an assisted living center. They serve two populations.

And the VNA's mission is to support "frail and vulnerable" populations, usually those who can't afford alternatives, such as private care.

Is this debate about a $2,500 contribution or about the very idea of nonprofits competing against private enterprise? Either way, we still think Moffat County commissioners acted in the best interests of our aging population, which will benefit from the VNA's acquisition of The Haven by having more options for care.

But that doesn't mean we don't appreciate and truly value the commitment that Sandrock Ridge and Rainbow have made to our community.

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