New local housing project will support aging at home

Saturday June 4, 2011

BRATTLEBORO-- A new type of housing will be available to the local aging and disabled population within the next few years with the construction of a new building at what is currently public housing development Hayes Court in West Brattleboro.

Officials with the Brattleboro Housing Authority held a meeting last week to inform Hayes Court tenants of their intention to tear down the aging buildings in order to put up an enhanced living facility. The housing authority will provide assistance to the current tenants to help them find a new residence and make the transition to their new homes.

Demolition is slated to begin immediately after all the tenants move out, by spring 2013 if everything goes according to schedule.

The new building will be designed to accommodate the needs of seniors and people with disabilities, allowing them to live and age safely at home, said Christine Hart, the housing authority's executive director.

The project is part of SASH -- Support and Services at Home -- which is one aspect of the Vermont Blueprint for Health.

The building will be 39,000 square feet, including he basement, and is projected to cost $5 million. It possibly will be funded through a combination of Housing and Urban Development sources, state sources and the low income housing tax credit, said Hart.

The SASH program will be paid for through Medicare dollars.

As part of the SASH pilot program, five other enhanced living facilities will be built across the state. They will join the first of its kind in Vermont, Heineberg Senior Housing, which opened a year and a half ago in Burlington.

Hart said Heineberg has been very successful, citing a woman who could barely walk when the program started and progressed so much over the last year that now she leaves her apartment to take walks outside every day.

The hope is that facilities like the one being built at Hayes Court will decrease medical costs statewide by reducing expenses associated with things like trips to the emergency room, rescue calls, lack of management of chronic conditions, and "bounce back," which is when a patient returns to the hospital very soon after being released.

A SASH team comprised of representatives from the Visiting Nurses Association, Area Agencies on Aging, mental health providers, subsidized housing providers and other local providers will work to connect agencies to the people in the community who can benefit from them. The team is anchored by an on-site care coordinator and a wellness nurse.

Right now, the housing authority's ability to assist elderly and disabled people living in public housing is limited due to privacy laws. SASH helps break down those barriers because the on-site coordinator will have legally permitted access to the residents' medical records.

Also, an assessment will be done on each resident to determine which wellness programs they would benefit from the most.

"(The assessment is) very interactive, and will identify with the participant some core areas that the person agrees they should be working on," such as nutrition or depression, said Hart.

Local agencies will be brought in to run programs to address these needs, and all members of the Brattleboro community are welcome to join them.

"I have no doubt that this model will prevail and be proven -- way over what the estimates are -- as a very successful way to help people age well and to help cut Medicare costs," said Hart. "The impact of the services, and amount of people who are able to use them, will be significant."

The new building will have 36 low-income housing units, most of them one-bedroom. They are spacious enough to allow for someone to assist in the bathroom and provide small touches designed to accommodate people with disabilities, such as an alcove for storing electric scooters.

The first floor will include a multi-purpose room, kitchen, dining room, living room and staff lounge.

Jaime Cone can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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