Naples site chosen for federal program to keep elders out of nursing homes
A Southwest Florida-based hospice organization is in the preliminary stages of offering a new program in Collier County to help frail individuals stay home and out of nursing homes.

Hope HealthCare Services, headquartered in Fort Myers, has leased 8,600 square feet of retail space in Marquesa Plaza at Livingston and Pine Ridge roads for a federal Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, known as PACE. It involves an array of medical, social and rehabilitative services to frail elders, enabling them to remain in their homes as long as possible and avoid nursing homes.

“In Florida, Hope was the second PACE program,” said Samira Beckwith, president and chief executive of Hope, with the first PACE program started by the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital. “There are about 80 PACE programs in the country right now.”

The plan is to open the Collier program next fall. The nonprofit hospice organization started a PACE program two years ago in Fort Myers and launched one in Charlotte County this past fall.

“The goal is to keep them home and keep them out of nursing homes,” Beckwith said.

Program enrollees don’t have to be hospice patients, she said.

Program services are tailored to each frail elder’s needs but generally encompass home visits to help with daily living needs, such as dressing, providing transportation to doctors’ appointments, assistance with medications, a 24-hour call for help, and providing transportation to the PACE center for socialization and activities, she said.

The leased space in Marquesa is for administration of the program but also will be where the PACE center holds activities.

The program was designed by the federal government for Medicare enrollees, Medicaid patients and private-pay patients. In Florida, the program is administered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

“You have to get approval to submit an application,” Beckwith said. “You can’t submit an application until you have your location.”

Beckwith said there will be community education programs in Naples to make people aware of the program when it is nearly ready to launch.

Officials at Avow Hospice in Collier had no comment about it because it isn’t a service that Avow offers, Avow spokeswoman Kit Chamberlain said.

The reason why Hope officials have expanded into this realm of services is because they have the qualified labor force and program components needed to do it. It is not a money-making program, Beckwith said.

“It’s because we are utilizing our core skills,” she said. “We saw we could utilize our core skills.”

Hospice teams are trained to keep frail people comfortable in their surroundings, help them keep their quality of life, and can offer medical services and counseling.

Beckwith said cost estimates for the Collier program aren’t done yet, but there will be interior construction work. New jobs will be created but she didn’t have a figure and some of the economic impact will be in the form of adding services to existing social service contractors.