BRENTWOOD — Supporters of a Rockingham County senior daycare program are outraged after county commissioners voted 2 to 1 this week to end the program next month, forcing families to find a new place for their aging loved ones to spend part of their days.
Commissioners Katharin Pratt of Hampton and Kevin Coyle of Derry voted to close the Adult Medical Day Program at the Rockingham County Nursing Home after Dec. 31.
Commissioner Tom Tombarello of Sandown opposed the decision to end the program that has benefited seniors for more than three decades.
"I'm fuming. Two people who have been voted into office by their constituents have now, without actually hearing anyone's opinion, voted to close a program where the families of now 18 people are left in the lurch. This is an absolute disgrace to Rockingham County," said state Rep. Debra DeSimone, R-Atkinson, who chaired a subcommittee studying the viability of the program.
The program offers social support, recreational activities, exercise, nursing supervision, therapy, and other services for those who still live at home but spend part of their days in the program held at the nursing home.
The program has been in jeopardy for months because of concerns over declining enrollment and the money it's lost each year.
There are 18 people enrolled in the program, which has room for close to 50.
The county charges $71 a day for a private pay rate. Pratt has claimed that it's facing a $100,000 deficit, but Tombarello insists it's more like $40,000.
Coyle said enrollment goals for the program haven't been met and that the county can't continue to fund it, especially when other similar private programs are available.
"This is a program that is available by private institutions. We're not the only daycare in the world. The government shouldn't be competing with private enterprises and losing money. It just doesn't make sense," he said.
Coyle added, "It's tough for the 18 families and I understand that, but we have to make tough decisions."
But DeSimone argues the program is worth keeping and that her subcommittee needed more time. She said the subcommittee had a meeting scheduled for Dec. 6 and that she wasn't told that the program could come up for a vote at Tuesday's meeting.
"These people are now going to sit in their homes. They're not going to get exercise. They're not going to be stimulated. Instead of it costing $71 a day for these people to be involved in a good, healthy program they're going to end up in a nursing home costing the county $321 a day," she said.
Nancy Russo of Epping has been fighting to save the program for months. Her elderly mother attends and has found the program beneficial in many ways.
Russo criticized Pratt, Coyle and Steve Woods, the nursing home's administrator, saying they "did nothing" to support the program and failed to help market it.
"In fact, if they had given any support rather than trying to sabotage the program it would have been far better," she said.
Following Tuesday's vote, Russo said she received a letter for her mother explaining that the program was closing. In the letter, she said Woods wrote that his assistant would provide transitional assistance to each family who may want alternative placement in another day program in the area.
"There are no other programs in our area. We have told him that time and time again but he hears nothing. Also, I do not want assistance from people that are as unconcerned as they have demonstrated when it comes to my mom," Russo said.
Tombarello also wasn't happy with the decision of his fellow commissioners and has heard from several state representatives who are equally upset.
"They've known from Day 1 that I thought it was very important to the senior citizens. They're very disappointed in the commissioners," he said.
Neither Pratt nor Woods could be reached for comment.