Despite years of negotiations, efforts to save Valley View, a residence for the deaf and deaf-blind elderly in Middletown Township, Delaware County, have failed.
Sandra Cornelius, president of Elwyn Inc., the social-services organization that runs the 40-resident facility, announced this week that the agency's board of directors had voted to close the facility because of budget problems.
"This action was taken with a heavy heart and only after all feasible alternatives seemed exhausted," Cornelius said in a statement.
Residents' families were notified in a letter mailed Thursday. The facility will close within 90 days, the letter said.
State and Elwyn officials are working to find another facility that will house all of the residents. At least one such alternative is being considered, said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for State Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), who was a part of the Valley View negotiations. Arneson declined to name the facility.
The closing ends an extended period of negotiation among state agencies, county officials, legislators, and managers of Valley View who had sought to resolve licensing and funding issues for the residence.
Valley View had been operating under a "hybrid license" that authorized a combination of day and residential care and reimbursed the facility at a sufficient rate to operate, said Angela Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for Elwyn.
But under the administration of Gov. Corbett, that license was deemed inappropriate and negotiations began to find a resolution that would allow Valley View to continue to operate, Jacobsen said.
The parties later agreed that Valley View would be licensed as a nursing home, but the state funding associated with the designation was not enough to finance expenses, Jacobsen said. The state funding reimbursement rate would have left the facility with a $800,000 shortfall, Jacobsen said.
State officials tried to help Valley View officials find a "creative" solution including the possibility of moving the residents to another facility on the Elwyn campus, said Christina Reese, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Aging.
But "the legal and financial realities led Valley View to make that choice" to close, Reese said.
The decision is a blow to families and deaf activists who had sought to keep open the facility, a place where deaf and deaf-blind elderly can communicate and socialize with each other, and are cared for by staff skilled in American Sign Language.
Susan Gold, whose 85-year-old father, Hyman Lakin, has been a resident for over five years, is concerned that her father will be isolated if he becomes the lone deaf person in another facility.
"I'm very worried about what type of environment my dad will be placed in," Gold said. "He already has challenges. What will the challenges be if he doesn't have the social interaction?"
In April, Valley View supporters organized a rally at the residence to urge that the facility remain open.
"I chose Valley View because I didn't want to be a burden on my daughter - and everyone here is deaf," Lakin said through an interpreter at the rally. "When we're with hearing people, we're left out."
Deaf advocates and residents and their families say they want a solution that places the residents together in a new facility - with staff members who know sign language - so that residents won't be isolated.
State officials are committed to that goal as well, Reese said.