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DAC closes Headwaters Adult Day Services

The senior respite-care program could not recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 related closures.

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A group of clients participate in Headwaters Adult Day Services during October 2019. (Enterprise file photo)

Restrictions related to COVID-19 continue to affect local programs for the disabled, even as state guidelines have gradually loosened.

Laura Johnson, executive director of the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC), announced on June 26 that Headwaters Adult Day Services, the DAC’s senior respite care program, has been permanently closed.

Calling it a “difficult decision,” Johnson admitted this closure leaves a “hole” in services for senior caregivers.

Johnson said the Minnesota Department of Human Services ordered the DAC to close all their facilities on March 20 – including the Salvage Depot, Bearly Used and Tin Ceiling thrift stores – due to COVID-19.

“Of course, it makes absolute sense because we want to keep people safe, and seniors are going to be at high risk,” said Johnson.

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This had a chilling effect on the DAC’s finances.

“In our line of work, we are only paid when we have people at our facilities,” Johnson said. “Once our facilities closed, we had no revenue until we were allowed to open our stores again in mid-May. We opened following the guidelines” – initially, staffed by DAC employees only – “but still did not have any clients attending our facilities.”

In mid-June, guidelines relaxed further, allowing certain DAC clients to come back – those who live on their own or with family, “about 20 percent of the people that we serve,” she said. The majority of DAC clients, who live in group homes, remain under quarantine.

Tough decision

Having the stores back in business helped, Johnson said, but not enough to save the adult day program.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “there are fixed costs. We have, basically, run through our reserves.”

The senior respite-care service “hadn’t built up quite as quickly as we would like,” she said, “simply because it’s a tough decision for families to make, for caregivers to say, ‘I need this respite, and I’m going to have our person go to this program.’”

Dick Kimball, the brother of a DAC client who lives in a group home, voiced regret about the closing of Headwaters Adult Day Services.

“I’m in that age group,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we don’t need those services yet. But who says, down the road, that one of us doesn’t become debilitated to the point where we can’t do the things we do now. … You look at the aging population that we have in this area, and the other areas in outstate Minnesota. We have to have these types of services.”

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Johnson called announcing the closure “a tough decision … because it feels like a failure to close the service. Because we are leaving people without services. And that is really difficult.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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