The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 16, 2019 1:00 am

Health care program for elderly planned

PACE expanding to area, helps residents remain independent

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Aging & In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana on Thursday celebrated construction for a new program not with shovels in the ground but with sledgehammers swinging into a wall.

The nonprofit organization is renovating its former headquarters along Lake Avenue to create space for PACE, or Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly.

“We do not take lightly what we are about to do – take sledgehammers and smash what we have built,” board Chair Keith Huffman said to a few dozen people gathered under a tent outside the gutted office.

“We do it because we have found a greater purpose for this building in this very spot,” he added.

PACE is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps those 55 and older meet their health care needs in the community instead of going to a nursing home or other care facility. Its programs coordinate and provide preventive, primary, acute and long-term care services so older individuals can continue to live independently, according to a news release.

It serves more than 50,000 people in 31 states, including Indiana, which has programs in Indianapolis and Mishawaka. The average PACE participant is 77 and has about eight medical conditions, many chronic; about 70% are women.

PACE of Northeast Indiana is expected to be complete next year and will be able to serve a couple hundred people.

The vision to bring PACE to Fort Wayne stems from work Aging & In-Home Services began in 2011 when it partnered with Parkview Health Systems on another program, said Connie Benton Wolfe, the agency's president and CEO.

“We are eager to be at the forefront of offering this new model of integrated care to residents in the Fort Wayne area,” she said.

Parkview and Aging & In-Home Services' shared mission benefits this new effort, said Dr. Greg Johnson, the health system's chief clinical integration officer.

“As partners, we will be able to serve this vulnerable – very vulnerable – group of citizens in our community,” Johnson said. “It is a small group of citizens, but it is a monumental task.”

A market feasibility study identified Aging & In-Home Services' offices at 2927 Lake Ave. as an ideal location for PACE, Huffman said. The agency relocated to a building on West Jefferson Boulevard most recently occupied by Physicians Health Plan.

Huffman also acknowledged Old National Bank, MKM architecture + design and Weigand Construction for their contributions with the renovations.

The project is more than just remodeling 18,000 square feet, Zach Benedict of MKM said.

“It also will transform the lives of people that, otherwise, I don't know where they'd go,” he said.

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