Stung by the Buena Vista County Supervisors' plans to sell the property where inpatient mental illness health services have been offered for 22 years, Spectra Health Care Administrator Sue Morrow announced Friday that the facility will close its doors by the end of February.
The Spectra board of directors made the difficult decision to close when it became apparent they wouldn't be able to obtain the property from the county, according to Morrow.
The not-for-profit agency had offered $1 for the site - feeling it had already paid the county enough in 22 years of rent amounting to $738,000. That amount would cover all expense the county has put into the property over the years plus the recent appraised value of $255,000, Spectra says.
The facility will continue only long enough to assist its 30 residents and their clients living in the community to find other living arrangements and transition to other services.
The county has conserved none of the rent money for repairs to the site, Spectra officials learned at a recent public hearing, Morrow said.
Spectra, which took over for a county care facility during privatization two decades ago, provides residential care, skill development and supported living for a predominately mentally ill population.
County officials have said they didn't intend to force Spectra to close, but that the county no longer wishes to own the site. The move proved somewhat controversial, raising concerns that crucial inpatient mental health care could be sacrificed in the region, along with the jobs Spectra offers. Spectra or someone else could buy the property, supervisors said. Bids will be taken in the coming weeks, but Spectra had been the only bidder to be announced so far.
Morrow said the county's plan to sell the property couldn't have come at a worse time. Earlier this summer Morrow approached the board requesting a 15 percent increase in payments for 2008, however, the Board only approved 5 percent. Morrow said not being able to get the increase they felt they needed has drained their resources. With the minimal reserves they had depleting, she says Spectra didn't have resources left to put towards the purchase of the property.
Once the county's intentions to sell the site were made public, the negative impact on client referrals to the facility suffered as uncertaintly grew over the future of Spectra and its residents, further hurting the facility's income.
During the next two months, Morrow said Spectra hopes to make the transition to new surroundings and new agencies as smooth as possible for its residents. Staff, family members and case manageres will be assisted in the closing process by the Department of Inspections and Appeals and the State Ombudsman's Office. Morrow says she regrets that persons with severe and persistant mental illnesses needing stabilization will now need to travel 100 miles round-trip or more, to find programs similar to those offered at Spectra.
Morrow told the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that their referrals began suffering immediately when the County announced that they were hiring an appraiser to get some figures on the facility. Supervisor Paul Merten said the action came after a recommdation on insurance for the site, an increasing burden for the county.
After switching insurance companies, the facility that had been insured for $1.3 million was recommended for an increase to $2.7 million coverage. Merten said it seemed like the appropriate time to update assessment figures and to consider possibly selling the facility. "It was never our intent to disadvantage your business," Chairman Dale Arends told Morrow Tuesday.
"Referrals have dried up with anticipation of what you're going to do," says Morrow. She says during a public hearing on November 18 she feels people didn't hear much that gave them much hope.
According to Morrow the agency must announce closure before the successful bidder is selected by the county. "The county was unable to give definite assurance that after the sale, Spectra would definitely have the 60 to 90 days necessary to help residents find appropriate placements," Morrow explained in a written statement. The Board rejected a proposal from Morrow for $1 that came with a December 5 expiration date. The County told Morrow that they would need to leave the January 16 deadline for bidders in place, to make it fair for other bidders. Spectra could bid then if it wished, county officials said.
Morrow said the Spectra Board of Directors wishes to thank the Storm Lake community for its years of support. Church programs, individuals who served on the care review committee, agencies that have co-served residents, various business relationships and 16 counties in northwest Iowa that have provided some funding toward their citizens in need of mental health services all helped out.
After 22 years, Spectra intends to end operations with the same kind of dignity and respect it has always held for the people it serves, Morrow said.