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National trend seen for assisted-living facilities

Baptist invests in expanding market: aging Baby Boomers

In the last few years, Baptist Health Systems has invested approximately $23 million in a rapidly expanding and highly profitable market for aging baby boomers — assisted-living communities.

“There’s a national trend toward hospitals and health systems getting into the assisted-living center arena,” said Bill Moak, spokesperson for Baptist Health Systems.

Mike Stevens, executive director of Mississippi Baptist Medical Enterprises, a subsidiary of Baptist Health Systems, said venturing into assisted-living fits well with the hospital’s focus as a “Christian healing ministry,” he said.

“Several years ago, we took a broader approach when we looked at outside activities that might need to be considered in our Christian healing ministry and, at that time, we elected to look at assisted-living facilities and adult day health services,” Stevens.

Baptist Health Systems hooked up with Emeritus, the nation’s largest developer of retirement and assisted-living communities. Operating more than 115 communities in 25 states, Emeritus developed — and manages — Baptists’ two assisted-living communities — Trace Pointe in Clinton and Ridgeland Pointe in Ridgeland.

“Before we go into an area, we do extensive market research and really look at the demographics,” said Brady Stewart, Trace Pointe’s community director. “Because the first one in Ridgeland was so successful, we moved ahead with more. We just beat everybody to the punch.”

Since Ridgeland Pointe opened in August 1997, Emeritus has constructed four assisted-living communities in Mississippi, including Trace Pointe. Emeritus does not have partners on the other three: Loyalton of Biloxi opened nearly 18 months ago and is almost 100% occupied; Silver Leaf Manor in Meridian, with 100 units, is 85% occupied since its August 1998 opening; Loyalton of Hattiesburg is approximately 60% occupied since its opening in 1999, with “a lot of move-ins on the books,” Stewart said.

Ridgeland Pointe, representing a $9-million investment for Baptist, is a fully-occupied, 80-unit facility with efficiencies, alcoves and one-bedroom floor plans. The assisted-living community, which now has a waiting list, is located near The Senior Center in Jackson, which provides community services for seniors. The addition of 20 to 25 Alzheimer’s assisted-living beds has been discussed, but business developers at Baptist have made an expansion project in Clinton top priority, Stevens said.

“We’ll focus additional phases in Clinton first, starting with an independent living phase with a 120-unit or so facility and independent living cottages,” he said.

Trace Pointe, a $13-million investment for Baptist, opened in November. With 96 units on 56 acres in Clinton, the facility is already 60% leased. Efficiencies and studios are already booked, while alcoves, one- and two-bedrooms are leasing well. Sizes range from 300 to 735 square feet, and monthly rates for independent living start at $1,500; assisted-living starts at $1,995, Stewart said.

“In the assisted-living communities, each unit is equipped with a personal one-touch emergency response system,” Stewart said.

A 24-hour staff provides assistance with medications, bathing, grooming and dressing, dining, walking and scheduled activities. At Trace Pointe, the staff consists of nearly 50 employees, Stewart said.

A CCRV, a computerized clinical documentation system, is used to convey patient information throughout the Baptist Health Systems network. In addition to partnering with Emeritus on two assisted-living facilities, Baptist has two adult day health care facilities.

“A this point, we do not have skilled nursing facilities or Alzheimer’s assisted-living facilities,” Stevens said. “We have future plans for those at Trace Pointe.”

After spending $1 million in street drainage and capital improvements on land that was slated for development of an assisted-living facility in Brandon, Baptist opted to drop the project.

“Several years ago, we felt like we could take a more aggressive approach,” said Stevens. “With changes in health care, we’ve taken a more conservative approach, and developments in assisted-living facilities will probably be a little slower than the glide path we were on several years ago. We will continue to focus on additional phases in Clinton, which was initially proposed as a multi-phased continuing care retirement community. We have only built one phase. We have plans to build an independent living phase, independent living cottages, an Alzheimer’s assisted-living facility. If the state board of health and the Legislature continue to issue nursing home beds, then we may, at some point, offer nursing home care.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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