116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
SCOTCH GROVE - If you're looking for a large, distinctive place in a rural setting, Jones County may have the place for you.
Or maybe not.
Edinburgh Manor, the county's former residential-care facility - the “county home,” more traditionally - remains on the market, weeks after the Dec. 31 deadline for offers. Its last tenant says the place needs work.
“I wouldn't use it for any services,” said William Bonnes, president and CEO of Community Care Inc., the county's provider of residential mental health services. “We requested the county invest money in it to renovate it, and they chose not to.”
According to its website, the county will consider “any reasonable proposal for use of the property, which may include sale or lease of the property.”
Built about 1911, the 12,000-square-foot, two-story brick structure about 11 miles northeast of Anamosa was rendered surplus when Community Care moved its 36 residents, all with chronic mental illness, to its new Fairview Care Center in Anamosa.
Community Care, the Dewitt-based non-profit that provides residential mental health services under contract to Eastern Iowa counties, spent about $1 million to renovate the former Jones Regional Medical Center after the hospital moved to a new facility on Anamosa's eastern edge in October 2009.
“It's closer to their homes; it's closer to their community,” said Bonnes. “These are people who would have been in a state mental hospital if not for this.”
As for Edinburgh Manor, “it was dangerous,” Bonnes said. “Even though we passed fire inspection, the structure was not conducive to having disabled people live there.”
The 11.3-acre site also includes two caretakers' homes. The manor had a new roof installed in 2000, but to say the place needs work “would be a fair assessment,” said Wayne Manternach, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Whatever its future, Edinburgh Manor's past saw sweeping changes in how society cares for its poor, its mentally ill and its disabled.
“The model has changed,” said Linda Hinton, manager of governmental relations for the Iowa State Association of Counties. “The trend is to have people receiving services not separated in the same way a county care facility would be, out in the country.”
Virtually all Iowa counties got out of the business of providing care themselves, turning the work over to contractors like Community Care.
In Linn County, Abbe Inc. provides residential services at the Abbe Center for Community Care. The county-owned facility at 1860 County Home Rd. opened in 1976 on the site of the old county home. Services are provided in Johnson County at Chatham Oaks in Iowa City, operated by the non-profit of the same name.
“It can be more cost-effective,” Hinton said. “You get out of that management of the bricks and mortar. All you're paying is the service costs, but some of those service costs can be significant.”
At first, “the county home was largely geared to the indigent, but it became sort of the place for people who didn't need active hospital care but who couldn't go back into town on their own,” said Dr. Bhasker Dave, superintendent of the state's Mental Health Institute in Independence. “It was the safety net for some of this vulnerable group of citizens.”
That often meant the indigent elderly.
Thanks partly to programs such as Social Security and Medicare, those older than 70 are the nation's wealthiest demographic, leaving the county homes to the mentally ill or disabled.