WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A program touted as a community-based alternative to costly nursing home care for the elderly is making a major expansion in Kansas.
The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, now serves eight Kansas counties. Soon it will be available in 59 counties, all in eastern and central Kansas. Thirty states have PACE programs.
PACE provides medical and social services for people age 55 and older who qualify for nursing home care, but who can live safely at home with some assistance.
Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan was in Wichita on Wednesday, and toured the facilities of the local Via Christi HOPE program. The Via Christi program — along with Midland Care in Topeka and Bluestem Communities in Hesston — will be expanding their current programs to take in the additional counties.
“It is important to us that we keep seniors at home — healthy, independent, out of the hospital and managing their chronic condition that they have or that they may have,” Sullivan said.
The expansion is expected to create 300 to 400 health care-related jobs in Kansas in the next year or two. Those would include physicians, nurses, home health care workers, certified nurse aides and transportation drivers, among others.
PACE has been in Kansas since 2002, when it was first offered at Via Christi. The program, which is funded by Medicare and Medicaid along with some state money, has demonstrated its success nationwide, Sullivan said.
“Seniors generally want to stay at home as long as possible and PACE lets them do that,” he said.
Until now, the program was available only in Sedgwick, Shawnee, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Osage, Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee counties, where it served more than 300 people. It is estimated that 11,900 people in Kansas are eligible medically and financially for the program, and the expansion is anticipated to actually serve 1,100 to 1,200 of them. Nationwide, PACE has more than 25,000 participants.
“It is helping a lot of people that are marginalized,” said Sam Allred, executive director of Via Christi HOPE in Wichita.
Expanding the PACE program to western Kansas counties will be “more of a challenge” given the area’s sparse populations, Sullivan said.
PACE provides enrollees with a health care team that includes a primary care doctor, nurse, social worker, physical therapist, personal care attendant, among other professionals. It provides an adult day health center where they can get medical care, lunch, therapy and social activities. Transportation is provided to the center and to medical appointments.