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December 15. 2013 8:05PM

Rockingham County commissioners urged to reverse vote on adult day care

BRENTWOOD — A panel of state representatives have so far failed to convince Rockingham County commissioners to reverse their vote to end a county adult day care program on Dec. 31.

At an emergency meeting last Thursday night, 17 state representatives who serve on the county delegation’s executive committee voted unanimously to support the Adult Medical Day Program, but the decision ultimately rests with the three elected county commissioners.

The committee also voted unanimously to hold a press conference Tuesday night to voice their support for the program and tell their constituents that their elected state representatives didn’t want to see it end.

The program provides 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.

Enrollment last month was at about 18 people; the program can accommodate nearly 50.

The program faced the threat of closure this year due to low enrollment and financial losses.

A subcommittee was formed to explore ways to save the program, but it failed to meet enrollment goals in August and November.

Commissioners Kate Pratt of Hampton and Kevin Coyle of Derry voted last month to kill the program at the end of this month. Commissioner Tom Tombarello of Sandown voted against the closure.

“I think the delegation wants to make sure the people in the county understand that it’s these people that want to do this to our seniors who have been paying taxes their whole life,” said state Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, who chairs the county’s delegation of state representatives.

Major said representatives hoped commissioners would negotiate to keep the program open on a trial basis for the next year, but they haven’t budged.Supporters of the program have argued that the county hasn’t done enough to market the program. They have also criticized commissioners for a freeze that was put on enrollment briefly earlier this year when it appeared the program might not survive. Pratt said Friday that they won’t change their decision.

“We feel that we have worked most of this year with the delegation’s subcommittee. The commissioners came up with a plan to try and improve enrollment and to comply with some of the wishes that came out of these meetings with some of the family members. The enrollment is just the same as it was. It limps along at around 40 percent and it’s been that way for years,” she said.

Pratt said she doesn’t disagree that it’s a beneficial program for those who use it, but insisted that it can’t continue with such a low enrollment.

“This is a political decision and we have to at least consider the realities of running a business. We can’t just ignore these kinds of realities,” she said.

Pratt said the disagreement between the delegation and a majority of commissioners has created a “turf battle” over who decides the future of the program.

“I think it’s a political struggle and it’s too bad because we have to work together and I think we’ve worked together pretty well over the years,” she said.

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