Here in Centre County, we have a county-run nursing home facility. It is located in the county seat of Bellefonte, PA. Centre Crest Nursing Home in Bellefonte has been county-owned and operated for 73 years. On June 18, Commissioners Steve Dershem (R) and Chris Exarchos (R) called for a surprise and unannounced vote (which may have violated Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Law) to transfer the facility to a private organization to be run as a non-profit. If the transfer goes through:
- We, citizens of Centre Co., will lose our say in the operation and funding of Centre Crest;
- Our tax investments could be subsidizing a private company through a rent-free agreement, yet we’d have no say in how Centre Crest would be run;
- Current Centre Crest employees will have their benefits and pensions cut;
- The Bellefonte community would lose over $1 million when employees lose benefits and when jobs involving payroll, purchasing, and benefit administration services are outsourced to a private company based in outside of Centre County; and
- We expect that costs will rise for the residents, most of who are lower-income and cannot afford any of the very expensive private nursing home care that is elsewhere available in the county.
Most of the citizens in the county are opposed to this transfer. Some oppose the transfer because of the inability for citizens to have a continued say in how the nursing home should be run. Some oppose the transfer for fear that their loved ones will no longer be able to afford the care and will be forced to move. Some oppose the transfer because of the expected loss of benefits, including a defined pension plan, should the nursing home be turned into either a non-profit or for-profit nursing home. And some oppose the transfer due to the costs involved.
In 2012, the cost to the average household (not taxpayer, but household) to operate Centre Crest was $25 (5.6% of the county taxes) and it was less than that in each of the four years before that. The third commissioner, Commissioner Michael Pipe (D) spent several months doing a cost-benefit analysis of either keeping Centre Crest as a fully county-run facility or selling it off. The cost of Commissioners Pipe’s proposal to upgrade facilities at Centre Crest is less than $11.50 for the average household. The cost of a suggested subsidy to the county to turn it into a nonprofit is $3 million. In addition, the proposed plan involves this non-profit receiving the current and proposed new site rent free. Should the facility be moved, the county could incur an additional cost of $700,000 to $900,000 to acquire the suggested new location (Bellefonte Armory) with no reimbursement from the non-profit.
The current set up, according to Commissioner Pike is a win-win for the county and for seniors. As he argued before the vote, keeping Centre Crest as an upgraded county-run facility is both an “excellent use of our investments (taxes)” and “provides a home and medical care to our most vulnerable citizens–our seniors.”
The transfer is NOT A DONE DEAL. Although the initial vote was taken to transfer the home, none of the legal paperwork has yet to be signed and there are some legal actions that are being considered to stop what has happened so far.
There is a better alternative. Commissioner Pipe presented a plan to keep Centre Crest county owned and upgrade the facility for only $11.50 per year for the average household.
Together we can make this alternative happen.
If you live in Centre County, PA; have family in Centre County; or are concerned about the idea of profit over compassionate care for vulnerable seniors, then you can help stop this decision from coming to fruition.
- If you live in Centre County, attend the County Commissioners’ meetings. They occur at 10:00 am every Tuesday morning. Voice your objection to the transfer during the public comment session at the beginning of each meeting;
- No matter where you live, you can donate $5 or $50 to “Centre County Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility.” Mail to: 148 Thornton Rd., State College. PA 16801;
- Write a letter to the editor. The local papers include the Centre Daily Times, Voices of Central PA, the Lock Haven Express, the Progress News, and the Centre County Gazette;
- Contact the Commissioners directly:
- Via Letter*: Commissioners Steve Dershem, Chris Exarchos, and Michael Pipe, 420 Holmes St., Bellefonte, PA 16823
- Email*: BOC@centrecountypa.gov
- Phone*: 814-355-6700
- Go to http://saveCentreCrest.org, click on “petition,” download, print and then sign it. You can then, if you desire, you can gather more signatures. Once your petition is complete, mail it to: Save Centre Crest, P.O. Box 262, Bellefonte, PA 16823
You can also obtain more information and background on Centre Crest, what’s happening, and what you can do by visiting the Save Centre Crest website.