September 9, 2020
Update on Brooklyn Park
I last wrote an update about Homeward Bound’s activities related to closing the Brooklyn Park facility and opening several smaller homes in January.
I highlighted some of the challenges to closing Brooklyn Park and then mentioned that these had resolved. While the waiver rate-setting system is not perfect, it is now likely that the individuals who live at Brooklyn Park could get waiver rates sufficient to fund the services they need. Since then, two other challenges to keeping the home open have either appeared or intensified, both of which make it wiser to move on closing the facility.
Both of these challenges are related. One is the Covid outbreak and the other is the related reversal in Minnesota’s budget health. It is obvious to many that the larger the residential setting is, the more likely it is that more people will be exposed to the virus’ transmission. That is the experience we went through at Homeward Bound. So if we are going to live in a Covid world for a while, or a world of other contagious viruses, we need to take that into account when planning the size of the residences we operate on behalf of vulnerable individuals.
The Covid outbreak and resulting shutdown have wreaked havoc with Minnesota’s economy. Its 2020 modest surplus has turned into a deficit for the rest of the biennium and a really significant one for the next. While many of us are hoping that the economy improves as Covid recedes, and thus reduces the forecasted deficits as they now stand, it may not. That means both our waivered services and our ICF services will be facing significant budget cuts early next year.
Obviously rate cuts in an era of Covid and the workforce crisis can have dangerous consequences for both ICF and waiver services. But they hit ICF services (or Brooklyn Park) harder. That is because the state has not given any increase to ICF services since 2015, and that was only 1 %. So rate cuts will harm those services more. Also, if a site is more susceptible to Covid outbreaks, that means huge costs for personal protective equipment, hazard pay, overtime and temporary staffing; costs for which the state does not reimburse.
We are still a long ways from actually beginning the closure of the facility. Management will begin planning a closure budget to see where we are and if we really can do this thing. After Management and the BOD are on the same page, we will approach Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota about planning. So there is lots of work to be done before we get going. I promise to keep you all informed.