A congressional committee has approved funding for a new adult day-care facility in Juneau.
The funding was included a House-Senate conference committee report on the appropriations bill for the Veterans Administration and Housing and Urban Development, said Wayne Maloney of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens' Washington, D.C., office.
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Catholic Community Service will receive $990,000 for the facility, which will provide day care for the elderly with dementia as well as physical and mental disabilities. The facility will be designed to serve 35 to 40 clients.
The present Bridge Adult Day Care program meets at the Juneau Senior Center and can serve about 18 people, said program supervisor Heidi Passer.
"This would more than double" the capacity, Passer said. "I am really excited."
Bridge does not have a waiting list now, "but that could change," she said.
The appropriation was "strongly supported" by the conference committee, said Lisa Sutherland, a member of the appropriations committee staff.
Rosemary Hagevig, executive director of Catholic Community Service, brought the idea to Stevens' attention, saying the Bridge program was having space problems, Sutherland said.
The new facility will be "especially important for Juneau families who choose to care for their elderly parents in their homes," an arrangement that makes it difficult to get respite or go to work, she said.
The appropriation is a first for Alaska, Sutherland said, "so Juneau is paving the way and hopefully will be a model for the rest of the state."
The money comes from a HUD program called Economic Development Initiative, which funds construction projects aimed to benefit the elderly, disabled, battered women and the homeless.
"The one thing that we know is that life expectancy is increasing, and the number of people in this age bracket is growing," said Hagevig. "A lot of the people we serve in the Bridge program have dementia or Alzheimer's and we need to provide a safe, therapeutic place for them.
"Philosophically, we support the concept that elderly people want to live with their families and stay in their homes as long as they can."
In many cases, Hagevig added, proper day care can slow the progress of disease.
The $990,000 will allow Catholic Community Service to find land, build a facility and "plan for the future," Hagevig said. It will take two or three years to open a new facility, she said. The process will be eased by a $100,000 planning grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust.
Sutherland expects the conference report to go to the House and Senate today or Friday for passage, and then to President Bush for his signature. She does not expect any surprises.
"Those are mostly formalities," she said.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at email@example.com.
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