Community task force on long-term care gives updates | Guest Column

Submitted by care task force organizers

Over the last few weeks, many of you have shown concern about the limited availability of long-term care, rehabilitation and housing for our county’s aging and at-risk or complex-care populations.

This subject has reached crisis level with the closure of Life Care Center of the San Juan Islands – a facility that has been subsidized by Life Care Centers of America for the last 20 years to keep it open and serving residents across the county.

A thoughtful community meeting held in late September at the Mullis Community Center in Friday Harbor highlighted many of your concerns, some facts about the depth of the problem, a willingness of many to be part of a sustainable solution, and some brainstorming ideas. Among these was the creation of a task force.

In response to this suggestion, a group of key community leaders approached Evan Perrollaz, director of Village at the Harbour (an assisted living facility) for his experience and perspective on assembling this group.

Through Perrollaz’s leadership, and with input from some of these same people, this small task force has been assembled with a mission “to meet for a period of six months and generate two to three solution alternatives” to address the topics of skilled nursing, long-term housing, rehabilitation, home health care, respite, hospice, and related support systems, including affordable housing and workforce development.

The group’s goal is to clearly define our community’s needs and formulate conceptual solutions.

These alternatives will be passed to relevant health and social service organizations, government agencies and policy-makers for planning and development and also to workgroups and boards to explore local ownership, oversight, and funding sources. We anticipate these processes may take several years to bring to fruition.

Members of the task force were targeted to represent a spectrum of professionals working in the related fields including senior long-term care management, hospital management, rehabilitation, nursing, hospice, home care, financial stewardship, public health and emergency medicine. This group includes:

• Evan Perrollaz, director of Village at the Harbour, Chairman

• Kathryn Clary, registered nurse, Hospice of the Northwest, Hospice of San Juan,

• Kyle Davies, paramedic, San Juan Island EMS and member, San Juan County Board of Health

• Janice Fisher, director, Life Care Center of the San Juan Islands

• Beth Helstein, outreach and volunteer coordinator, San Juan Island Library

• Pam Hutchins, superintendent, San Juan County Public Hospital District 1

• Dennis King, executive director, Lahari

• Deanna Osborn, case manager, private practice

• Julia Thompson, director of rehabilitation services, Life Care Center of the San Juan Islands

• Carrie Unpingco, executive director, Community Foundation of San Juan Island

• Beth Willaims-Gieger, director, administrative services, Peace Island Medical Center

The group has gathered twice with the goals of defining the extent of the problem, reviewing county demographics and exploring existing models and systems. We will meet every two to three weeks and welcome input directly or at

“We foresee the need for collaboration and input across the county’s community as we form and realize this vision,” say organizers.