Woonsocket keeps ‘pace’ with resident health care needs

Woonsocket keeps ‘pace’ with resident health care needs

Celebrating the opening of the new PACE office are, from left, property owner Raymond Bourque, left, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, State Medicare Director Anya Rader Wallack, PACE Director Joan Kwiatkowski, PACE Senior Strategist Owen Heleen, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, and resident James Brunelle. (Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)
National program invests in new Social Street facility

WOONSOCKET – Northern Rhode Island seniors who want to stay in their homes rather than moving to a nursing facility now have a new resource located nearby.

PACE, or Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, has opened a center at 781 Social St., where staff will provide services ranging from adult day care, to mental health services, physical therapy and dentistry.

The program serves adults age 55 and older with chronic medical conditions, and aims to help people meet their health care needs in the community instead of going to a nursing home or other care facility.

“It’s definitely a later-in-life model, and it’s also a higher care model,” explained Day Center Director John Franchitto.

The bright, new, single story 14,000 square-foot center will employ a staff of around 20, and will have the capacity to serve some 250 patients, as most do not come daily.

The property, owned by developer Raymond Bourque, previously held a wooden structure that accommodated a variety of businesses over the years including a lamp shop and sign-maker LSI Retail Graphics. PACE paid for the demolition of that building, and has worked construction costs for the new space; which includes comfortable waiting areas, exam rooms, doctors’ offices and areas for medicines, equipment and records; into the cost of their lease with Bourque.

The PACE property would have been adjacent to the former Jenckes Mill, but that building was struck by lightening several years ago and eventually demolished.

Seniors who enroll with PACE receive individual assessments to determine what the Medicare and Medicaid program will cover, and many services are offered on location. Minivans are available to transport patients to and from PACE services.

Cost depends on the participant’s financial situation and PACE provides all the care and services normally covered by Medicare and Medicaid if they are authorized by the patient’s health care team.

An insurance program that contracts with other facilities including most major hospitals, PACE also pays for nursing home services when such care becomes inevitable.

“This is the right way to help people maintain their quality of life and their independence. This model is effective and it’s efficient,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed at a launch event this week.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said the new facility fills a gap among the city’s current medical care facilities.

“We had a missing component in northern Rhode Island in terms of health care,” Baldelli-Hunt said.

“Your hope is you have a facility like PACE so you don’t have to take your loved one and go straight to a nursing home,” said the mayor, referencing the program’s adult day care. “ People want to live with their families and you can’t just quit your job and stay home.”

PACE Rhode Island CEO Joan Kwiatkowski credited the mayor with envisioning the high-quality, modern facility.

“Where I saw a dilapidated mill, she saw a state of the art building to help care for our patients,” said Kwiatkowski.

The national model that came to R.I. in 2005, PACE has two other locations in the state, in Providence and Westerly.

The building has the feel of a senior center with space for visitors to socialize, and dining room where participants can eat breakfast and lunch.

“It’s supposed to be a first-class medical facility,” explained PACE RI Board of Directors Chairman Owen Heleen.

An official ribbon-cutting was held at the Social Street center on Friday, April 29, an event officials said was some three years in the making.

“Opening a PACE center is no small feat,” said Kwiatkowski. “Not a week went by where I wasn’t stopped by a client and asked what was taking so long.”

“It’s been a long path to get here,” Baldelli-Hunt agreed. “I think Woonsocket is keeping pace with the needs of the residents in our community. It’s definitely an improvement.”