Area seniors worry about displacement after letter

Inclusa ends contract with Bethany Lutheran Homes

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Nearly 70 area people in assisted living and their families are worried they're being left in the cold.

Bethany Lutheran Homes, with locations in La Crosse, Onalaska and Holmen, contracts with long-term care manager Inclusa, which uses Medicaid to line up residential services for people across the state.

Last week, BLH residents received a letter from Inclusa, telling them residential services will end March 3 because the organization wasn’t able to come to an agreement about rates with BLH.

"Nobody was ever expecting something like this,” BLH resident Ruth Klinski said. “I try not to cry.”

Klinksi said the news she received Wednesday threatens to interrupt all she loves about her assisted living community, Bethany on Cass.

"It's happy,” she said. “We smile. We laugh."

The letter from Inclusa to Klinksi and about 20 of her neighbors is turning those laughs into tears.

"You'll see one or two of them cry,” she said. “These people are scared to death." 

Klinski has less than 60 days to figure out her living arrangement.

"I thought it would be my forever apartment,” she said. "I waited for this place to be open for a long time and I don't want to move. I love it there. Everybody else does too, but we haven't got a choice right now."

"This is an atrocity,” said Donna Gallup, whose mother has resided in a BLH apartment in Holmen since 2014, after being on a waiting list for two years.

“She loves where she lives,” Gallup said.

Gallup got the same letter from Inclusa.

"They recognize that it's a difficult time," she said, reading the letter. "That's an understatement."

Gallup is worried that her mother, who is in her nineties and has Alzheimer's disease, will have to pick up and move.

“To have to move her will be very devastating to her,” she said, adding that she doesn’t know what the approximately 70 other residents effected will do.

"We all think, 'Where are they going to go?' There's currently many waiting lists out there, and now there's 70 more people that are rather urgent to find housing,” Gallup said. “It's very upsetting to us."

"We're old. Us people are all old that are in there. I say, 'Let us stay,'” Klinski said. “They've got to come up with something, and they've got to do it pretty soon because we've only got 60 days."

Klinski and Gallup both said they've asked a lot of questions but haven't gotten many answers.

BLH and Inclusa had a meeting Monady afternoon.

Bethany Lutheran Homes' CEO Todd Wilson said in a statement, "The decision to terminate the contract was initiated by Inclusa in an effort to reduce the rates currently paid to Bethany Lutheran Homes. We are hopeful an agreement can be reached so all residents can remain at our locations and Bethany Lutheran Homes can continue to provide the care residents and their families have come to expect."

In an email to News 8, Inclusa CEO Mark Hilliker wrote, "We have made ongoing efforts to schedule a meeting to negotiate rates with Bethany Lutheran Homes. I'm happy to report that Bethany Lutheran Homes has taken us up on our offer to meet. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to resolve the matter to both parties' satisfaction.”

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of La Crosse County advises anyone affected to contact their Inclusa representative.

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