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Partners in care combine resources

The county’s largest retirement community is partnering with an Ohio nonprofit organization, with the goal of having access to more resources, including for future expansions.

The Franklin United Methodist Community has partnered with Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices, a nonprofit that operates 14 senior living communities throughout Ohio, along with hospice and home care services.

The affiliation, which was unanimously approved by both boards of directors, will help with efficiencies in services and supplies, create a long-term master plan for expanding services and help the Franklin retirement community meet the requirements of government-run programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, Franklin United Methodist Community Executive Director Keith Van Deman said.

No money is changing hands, and the retirement community that has been in Franklin for 60 years is not being sold, Van Deman said. The community’s 400 employees will keep their jobs, the administration remains the same and the board of directors will remain local, with two Otterbein employees added to the 15-member board, Van Deman said.

The Franklin location will retain the money it collects to provide services, and Otterbein will be in charge of approving the annual budget, he said.

For the more than 500 residents of the community, their services will not change, and more could be added in the future, Van Deman said. This week, Van Deman has met with employees and residents to explain how the affiliation would work so they aren’t concerned about a change that would impact them, he said.

Eldon Rebhorn, a resident at the community and a board member, said he expected some residents would be nervous about the announcement. But he hopes they will look into it and get their questions answered to relieve any concerns.

Next, Otterbein plans to create a master plan for the Franklin campus, looking at what services could be added or expanded based on the needs of the community, which was something Franklin officials were looking for when they were searching for a partner organization, Otterbein Chief Executive Officer Jill Wilson said. Otterbein has staff that specialize in studying market research, financial feasibility, financing and programming for a potential expansion, she said.

Future projects could include renovating homes built in the 1960s, adding a facility with studio apartments inside that seniors and caregivers can live in — similar to facilities Otterbein runs — and adding home care and hospice services, Van Deman said.

By partnering with a larger organization, the Franklin community has access to funding options for expansions that they don’t have as a standalone facility currently, Van Deman said.

Franklin United Methodist Community officials had been looking for another organization to partner with for more than a year, and had reached out to several, including one that discussed a purchase that officials turned down, said Bob Coleman, chairman of the local community’s board of directors.

Otterbein was a perfect match because of its history with the United Methodist Church and its mission and purpose following the ministry of Christ, Coleman said.

The goal was to find efficiencies and strengthen themselves as a company, especially with additional government requirements for continual care facilities, and changes in how services are provided, with the addition of hospice and home care options, Coleman said.

“Ultimately, we don’t know the future of health care with all the questions going on out there and with all that government does or does not do,” Coleman said.

Partnering with Otterbein strengthens the Franklin organization through added resources, Van Deman said.

“We’re not doing this out of a need, we’re doing this to partner and become stronger,” he said.

For example, the Franklin community’s human resources employees are focused on the day-to-day tasks, such as payroll. But, as a larger organization, Otterbein’s human resources employees specialize in other areas, such as recruiting new nurses and analyzing the local market in order to offer the most competitive wages, Van Deman said.

Those resources, along with accounting, information technology, buying supplies in bulk and insurance benefits, can all help the Franklin location under its affiliation with Otterbein, Van Deman said.

The Franklin location could also benefit from Otterbein’s credit rating as a larger facility, getting better rates on loans that could be used for future expansions, and from its larger brand in order to better market themselves to a larger area, he said.

Otterbein also could choose to expand to the Franklin area the hospice and home care services it currently runs in Ohio, VanDeman said. But whether that would be feasible would be decided after Otterbein studies the needs of the area, he said.

The partnership also could help with reimbursements from government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, Van Deman said.

In the future, one of the factors that will determine how much a facility receives in reimbursement for services will be its quality rating. Currently, the Franklin United Methodist Community is a four-star facility under the Medicare ranking system, and Otterbein has several five-star facilities, Van Deman said.

At the same time, Otterbein can benefit from its partnership with the Franklin United Methodist Community by learning from some of its best practices, Wilson said.

For example, the Franklin facility doesn’t have a lot of rules for its employees, but does have 11 basic principles, including being on time, giving your best effort and being a team player. Otterbein has already asked for materials Franklin uses for its orientation with employees, Van Deman said.

“This is a wonderful way for us to join forces and be stronger as one united organization,” Wilson said.

About the Franklin United Methodist Community:

Services: The retirement community offers independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation, memory care and nursing care.

Location: 1070 W. Jefferson St., Franklin

Staff: 400 employees

Residents: About 500, along with rehabilitational patients

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