Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Together Best for Emmaus Homes Residents

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Together Best for Emmaus Homes Residents

Article excerpt

Sometimes there is conflict without villains. Sometimes there is dispute among people of good will on both sides of an issue. The issue of how best to care for 77 intellectually and developmentally disabled adults living on the campus of Emmaus Homes in Marthasville appears to be one of them.

Family and guardians concerned about plans to move their loved ones say administrators are putting commerce ahead of care.

Administrators describe it differently, saying their plan to move people into community-based housing is intended to provide best practices, financial stability and good stewardship for those in their care.

The Emmaus Homes board of directors, all volunteers, says it decided earlier this year to begin "transitioning our clients" off the 640-acre campus of rolling hills and pastures in Warren County and into neighborhood group homes in more urban surroundings.

The board says the 120-year old Marthasville campus loses $500,000 a year on overhead and maintenance annually. They say there are no plans or discussions underway to sell the acreage which could be worth as much as $2.5 million with the going rate of $4,000 an acre in Warren County once residents have been moved.

Emmaus Homes Inc., the nonprofit that operates the facility and serves more than 270 adults in homes across the St. Louis area, describes itself as a faith-based organization affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

The Marthasville campus was originally a German Evangelical Church seminary that became a housing and treatment center for people with epilepsy. Later the focus shifted to care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Included on a long list of federal guidelines for caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is the finding that they thrive in smaller group homes and that so-called "congregate settings" like Marthasville are not ideal.

Still, the campus passed muster last year with the various state departments that administer funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which provides most of the money for Emmaus Homes. The state was required to make sure that recipients of the funds were in compliance with new federal guidelines.

That did not stop the Emmaus Homes board from forging ahead with its decision to close the residential facilities on the Marthasville campus and move clients into community-based homes. In citing best practices, the board says research shows that adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have better outcomes in residential settings with fewer than five people.

The board voted on May 19 to close the campus within the next five years. That decision followed a public meeting earlier in the month that drew a crowd of more than 100 people pleading to keep the campus open. …

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