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Dallas County farm to close at end of the month

The Dallas County Farm is slated to close at the end of January, causing some 37 residents to find another place to live. The farm first opened in 1869.
The Dallas County Farm is slated to close at the end of January, causing some 37 residents to find another place to live. The farm first opened in 1869.

The Dallas County Care Facility, the 145-year-old institution once popularly known as the county poor farm, will close at the end of the month, and its 37 residents have until then to find other places to live.

That was the news Dallas, Inc., the management company leasing the building from the county and operating it as the Dallas County Care Facility, delivered to the Dallas County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 2.

Brad Fox, chairman of the board of Dallas, Inc., read a statement at the Jan. 2 county supervisors’ meeting. “Dallas, Inc. has given its residents and their guardians a 30-day notice of closing, and all residents will be placed in other facilities,” Fox said.

“Hopefully, this will take place with little stress to our residents,” he said.

Closing the residential care facility was a “difficult decision,” Fox said. “This decision was made based on our inability to maintain fiscal stability in the current human services climate.”

“We knew it was coming,” said Carolyn Dillard, executive director of the Dallas County Care Facility. She said the closure is in part a result of changes in the facility’s state funding structure begun last July with the “Iowa mental health redesign.”

“We have worked with our consumers over the last six months to help get a few of them into other arrangements,” said Dillard, who has served four years as the facility’s executive director.

She said the provisional closing date is Jan. 29, but “we will not cease operations until every consumer currently served by Dallas, Inc., has a safe and appropriate environment.”

Small-group housing arrangements, formally known as supported community living (SCL) homes in the language of mental healthcare, are now favored over the dormitory-style residential care facilities (RCF) once the norm, such as the Dallas County Care Facility.

“Iowa decided to regionalize its mental health services,” said Darci Alt, director of Dallas County Community Services, “and this redesign has led to a move toward more community services.”

The county care facility was originally licensed for 93 beds but now has 37 residents, all of whom receive Medicaid, which pays for part of their support, with state and county funding covering the rest.

It costs on average about $2,500 a month to support a resident at the facility.

In 2013 Dallas County spent about $3.5 million on community services for mentally ill and developmentally disabled county residents.

Alt’s office is assisting in relocating the residents, she said. As soon as Dallas, Inc., announced its intention to close, conference calls began, she said, bringing together representatives from the Iowa Department of Human Services, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, Disability Right IOWA, Long-term Care Ombudsman and others, each with a stake in the welfare of the residents.

“The staff of Dallas, Inc., has been wonderful,” Alt said. “They want to make sure everyone’s best interests are served, and they have been very positive.”

Brad Golightly, Dallas County Supervisor, said the announcement by Dallas, Inc., was “not a surprise.” He said the county “has been aware of their financial struggles and have been working together with them over the last couple of years to try and straighten things out.”

Waukee resident Tom Hamman, 78, whose twin brother has lived at the county facility for 25 years, said he was surprised by the news of the closure. He said the facility was like “a luxury hotel,” with separate rooms and a cafeteria.

Hamman said he and his sister will help relocate their brother, probably to Des Moines. “That way he will still be close to us,” he said.

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