Healthcare payment concept with stethoscope and big money US dollar.
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Certain assisted living and personal care homes, along with other long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania, will receive a portion of $14.2 million in federal funding that the state has received to help sustain quality care for older adults. But industry advocates say that some operators were denied funds based on program requirements or an inadequate amount of available money.

The funding is from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is meant to help operators improve workforce development and retention, infection prevention and control, emergency preparedness and facility infrastructure.  

Grants of $2,405 to $300,000 were awarded to 127 long-term care facilities in 43 counties through the Long-Term Care Quality Investment Pilot program. That program was open to assisted living communities, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities enrolled in the state’s LTC RISE (Resiliency Infrastructure Supports & Empowerment) program’s quality improvement work initiative. 

While the grant’s targets already were focus areas for Country Meadows Retirement Communities and its not-for-profit sister community Ecumenical Retirement Community, President and CEO Meredith Mills told McKnight’s Senior Living that the pandemic magnified the importance of overall preparedness and additional training and upskilling of employees.

“The grant money made available will allow us to devote funds directly to projects that are outlined by the Department of Health, which are above and beyond our budgeted needs, such as improving the technology we have available for communication and providing additional clinical skills and emergency preparedness training to our staff,” Mills said. 

Margie Zelenak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association, told McKnight’s Senior Living that she appreciates that assisted living communities and personal care homes were included in the grant program, saying that it is “another way personal care and assisted living has been acknowledged as an important part of the long-term care continuum of care in Pennsylvania.”

She added, however, that many assisted living communities and personal care homes were not eligible for funding based on the requirements. PALA and the Pennsylvania Health Care Association said that they heard from several of their members who were denied awards, indicating that there were not enough funds to meet the high level of interest in the program. 

LeadingAge Pennsylvania President and CEO Garry Pezzano told McKnight’s Senior Living that although he was glad to see “intentional investments” being made, the recipients represent a small percentage — less than 8% — of all long-term care providers across the state, “nearly all of whom report critical financial and workforce challenges.”

“If we are going to make a significant dent in these issues and ensure access to care for older Pennsylvanians, ongoing adequate funding needs to be top priority across the sector,” he said.

Funding decisions were based on factors including the social vulnerability index according to ZIP code data and the number of residents with Supplemental Security Income for assisted living residences and personal care homes, or the number of Medicaid days for skilled nursing facilities.

A ‘commendable start’

Funding is only for one year and requires a 20% match from providers, but PHCA President and CEO Zach Shamberg told McKnight’s Senior Living that it’s a “commendable start.”

“As providers continue to emerge from the pandemic — and after years without an increased, recurring investment — long-term care is struggling to enhance quality initiatives while also being able to afford it,” Shamberg said. “This grant funding can help contribute to the costs of strategically planned initiatives and expedite implementation.”

The state’s population is rapidly aging, Shamberg added, and he said he hopes the state continues to see the benefit of investment in the entire long-term care continuum to improve quality enhancements.

“As a society, we need to be prepared for the care demand without sacrificing quality,” he said. “The commitment of long-term care providers for sustainable, quality care will hinge on our state and federal governments’ interest to invest in the care of our elderly and adults with disabilities.”

A list of facilities that received funds, and the amounts that they received, is posted online by the Pennsylvania state government.