(The crowd at last night’s Wyoming Life Resource Center guardian meeting. Joshua Scheer photo.)
(Lander, Wyo.) – In a final meeting with guardians and family of clients of the Wyoming Life Resource Center regarding a legislature-directed study, Department of Health officials said they would not recommend closure of the Lander-based facility.
Dept. of Health’s Meredith Asay said during Thursday night’s meeting that “We will not be recommending closure of the Life Resource Center.” She also said, “We are not going to recommend there be forced transitions (of clients) out of the Life Resource Center.”
However, through questioning of Asay and Department of Health Director Tom Forslund by attendees, it was made clear that final action will be up to the legislature.
Asay declined to detail what exactly the department would be recommending to the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee at a Nov. 4 and 5 meeting in Lander. She said the department is still drafting the final study with recommendations.
She said there are two sections of the study, one on client services and one on efficiencies.
Asay said a comparison of assessments of WLRC clients and people on the disability waiver program found that there are comparable needs assessments between the two groups.
In a survey of community providers, reportedly more than 90 percent of 80 respondents said they would be willing to take on more clients.
While Asay said the department would not make a formal recommendation about how to get acquired brain injury program to receive federal Medicaid funds, the department does have to list all of the options to make that happen. Right now, ABI is fully state funded whereas the rest of the WLRC’s costs are shared about 50/50 with the federal government.
The options to get federal funding for ABI, Asay said, are: community-based programs, a certified nursing home or create a spin-off facility that gets the federal certification. She clarified that the department of health would not be recommending one option over another, but that they are obligated to present all three options to the legislative committee. She also noted that in the department’s research, no other examples of state-run, Medicaid-certified ABI facilities were found nationwide.
Asay then asked if anyone either attending via phone or in person (there were roughly 30 individuals in attendance) has wanted to transition their loved ones closer to home and back into the community but encountered boundaries and what those boundaries area. Several people said there were no facilities or providers locally who could handle their loved ones; they knew this because that is where they came from before the WLRC. Another person said they hoped to transfer out eventually but knows when they do they’ll be on the waiver waiting list for up to five years.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who is also a guardian of a client, called the boundary question “loaded.” He also said a survey provided earlier in the study process wasn’t fair. He told the department members present to also note that the 20 most expensive waiver clients have costs at or above those at the WLRC and that there aren’t comparable services in the community. He also said that while they won’t be recommending closure, he hasn’t heard anything about them wanting to bring in more clients who could help make the facility more financially viable. Case’s comments received applause from the audience and “bravos” from the phone callers.
The reoccurring theme in the guardians’ comments was that the WLRC was the best place for their family members and that they’ve improved in behavior and health since they’ve been here. No one said anything negative about current operations.
“We are so proud to have the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Wyoming,” one said.
Forslund said the public is free to attend the legislative committee meeting in November at the Inn at Lander when the final study will be presented. A tentative schedule of the meeting released earlier this month puts the WLRC discussion at 2 p.m. on the Fourth.
Forslund also worked to clarify differences between this study and one being conducted by the State Facilities Commission. The SFC is currently studying all of the health department’s facilities, and Forslund expects expensive renovation costs to be recommended for the WLRC.