Health

REM Iowa acquires St. Luke's New Horizons program, prevents closure

Under a new agreement, New Horizons residents will remain at their current location in St. Luke’s Living Center East, 1220 Fifth Ave. SE, until construction on new facilities is completed in the fall 2019. (The Gazette)
Under a new agreement, New Horizons residents will remain at their current location in St. Luke’s Living Center East, 1220 Fifth Ave. SE, until construction on new facilities is completed in the fall 2019. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — REM Iowa has acquired a long-term care program for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, a move that will prevent the only such program in Cedar Rapids from shutting down.

REM Iowa, a Hiawatha-based provider of services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, announced this week it has reached an agreement with UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids to purchase the hospital’s New Horizons program.

The 26-bed program houses individuals with moderate to severe and profound disabilities who require nursing services in a group living environment.

The New Horizons program was set to discontinue operations early next year, forcing the families of 25 residents to move their loved ones to other facilities across Eastern Iowa. The closest location is in DeWitt, about 60 miles away.

The transaction with REM Iowa is expected to be completed Feb. 1.

“REM Iowa is delighted to welcome the individuals served by UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids to our residential programs,” said REM Iowa Executive Director Lisa Pakkebier in a news release.

According to an announcement from REM Iowa, officials plan to build three separate residences — each with room for eight people — in Linn County “to enable the individuals served in this program to remain in their community.”

“We have been in communication with all of the families of the individuals served and expect that many of them will transition to REM Iowa,” Pakkebier said. “This is a challenging time for them, and we understand that some of them need time to think through their options.”

Pakkebier said REM Iowa is working with Cedar Rapids-based Ahmann Cos. on the project. Groundbreaking is anticipated to take place in the first quarter of calendar year 2019.

Under this agreement, New Horizons residents will remain at their current location in St. Luke’s Living Center East, 1220 Fifth Ave. SE, until construction on new facilities is completed in the fall 2019.

These new facilities will be designated as an Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled, a Medicaid benefit that enables states to individualize health care and rehabilitation services as an alternative to home- and community-based service waivers.

St. Luke’s Living Center East recently was purchased by the Catherine McAuley Center, which was expected to take possession Oct. 1.

UnityPoint Health officials are preparing to move skilled nursing beds now in Living Center East to its new Transitional Care Center on Cedar Rapids’ northeast side.

This — as well as an emphasis from the state for individuals such as those served by New Horizons to be placed in homelike settings rather than group institutional living environments — contributed to the program’s closures, UnityPoint Health officials said.

“Keeping our New Horizon’s residents in Linn County has always been our ultimate goal,” said Peg Bradke, vice president of post-acute care at UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids.

“We are very pleased our residents can now remain in Cedar Rapids, close to their family and guardians.”

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Laura Rainey, UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids spokeswoman, said REM Iowa approached UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids after program’s closure was announced. She said the health care system previously had spoken with REM Iowa about taking over the New Horizons program in 2017.

“We began conversations with UnityPoint at the end of October when we learned they had not yet identified alternative options for the individuals they are serving,” Pakkebier said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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