VNA gets funds to purchase Haven

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— More than 10 years ago, a group of mostly Routt County residents envisioned a noninstitutional place where senior citizens could live independently with supervision.

The visionaries formed the West Routt Rural Health Council and in 1996 completed The Haven Assisted Living Center in Hayden.

"It's a very personal, very upbeat residence, where medications can be monitored ... and there is community involvement -- (residents) are not isolated," Health Council President Mark Fischer said.

The Visiting Nurse Association is about to start a new page in The Haven story: VNA officials this week announced they have raised enough funds to acquire The Haven. They expect the purchase to be final later this month.

It will be the culmination of a year-long fundraising campaign that involved contributions from local individuals, businesses and government and state foundations.

Local donations, including funds from Health Council members, have helped close the funding gap since August.

"We are very pleased there is so much attention being given to solutions to this impending age wave challenge," VNA Executive Director Sue Birch said.

The VNA will be carrying on the Health Council's progressive model by using The Haven as a jumping point to improve care for seniors through programming and Haven-based facilities.

"We're improving the way people look at aging well and senior residence services, and the VNA is right at the front line," Fischer said.

Birch said she does not expect any major changes in operations or staffing at The Haven after the acquisition.

"That's part of the beauty of it: There is such a high-caliber, autonomous group (of staff) there," she said.

Early on, The Haven became an important home for aging residents in the region, but several years ago, its future became uncertain when unstable resident numbers coincided with economic downturn.

It was clear to Health Council members that The Haven needed more resources and a bigger organization behind it.

Yampa Valley Medical Center officials expressed brief interest in purchasing The Haven, but they decided it was not in the hospital's best economic interest.

The VNA stepped into the picture in summer 2004.

At this point, it is unclear what will happen to the Health Council after The Haven acquisition, Fischer said, noting the organization started with a bigger purpose of facilitating various rural health programs.

Birch said there will be a designated seat on the VNA's board of directors for a Haven representative.

VNA officials are excited about the acquisition, but they emphasize it is just the first step in their plans. They also are working to raise funds to build a community center at The Haven.

The community center would benefit the entire Hayden community and also would provide more room for senior programs and aging-well activities aimed at integrating seniors with other generations in the community.

The VNA made a big stride recently when the Colo--rado Office of Economic Dev--elopment designated the community center an Enterprise Zone Project. The designation is part of a program meant to encourage development and investment in rural and economically depressed areas.

Based on that program, donors who contribute to the community center will be eligible for a state tax credit equaling 25 percent of the donation.

VNA officials hope to begin construction of the community center in the spring.

Donations for the community center and aging-well program may be sent to the VNA, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487.

For information about donor tax credits or other aspects of the aging-well model, call 879-1632.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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