This is a case where Lawrence may be able to learn something from its smaller neighbors, Eudora and Baldwin.
When it comes to caring for their elderly, both towns have banded together to provide services ranging from apartments to nursing home care for senior citizens. And they've done it basically on their own, with city-owned facilities and local boards of directors.
The Eudora Nursing Center was built using an industrial bond issue and opened in 1975. In Baldwin, the Orchard Lane Nursing Home is owned by the city and operated by an Overbrook management company.
Now, a group of Lawrence residents is looking at the possibility of establishing a nursing home facility that is owned and operated by the community. Although the effort isn't directly related to the planned closure of the county-owned Valley View Care Home, the county's decision to close or sell the home probably has increased the feeling of urgency to pursue a community-based home.
This latest effort in no way detracts from the many fine services provided to Lawrence's senior citizens by private firms and facilities operated by the Lawrence Housing Authority. But a community-operated nursing home might fill a unique need. It has the ability to respond directly to the special needs of a community. It is overseen by local people who have an interest in helping other local people. It might provide a more moderately priced care option for some residents. In a very real way, it is a sign of a community that cares.
And facilities in neighboring cities have proven that a community-operated nursing home can not only provide a vital service but be financially successful. Lawrence residents probably would be surprised to know how many residents of the Eudora Nursing Center are either former Lawrence residents or relatives of current Lawrence residents. Eudora may have something to teach Lawrence.
Speakers at a meeting on Monday outlined some of the resources that would be available to a community-operated nursing home and some of the advantages of such a home. The 50 people who attended the meeting could act as a core group to get the ball rolling. Surely, enough other supporters could be found in Lawrence to help the project gather steam.
The possibility of a community-operated nursing home should be examined in detail; perhaps there is some reason such a facility is better suited to cities the size of Eudora or Baldwin and not as well suited to a community such as Lawrence. Many other questions need to be explored, but it is good a group of local citizens have taken the initiative to launch an effort that might result in a nursing home facility which would be a fine addition for the city.