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Setting the PACE for seniors Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Jun 16 2012 12:00 PM

Low income South County seniors will soon benefit from a facility providing healthcare services at no cost, as long as they meet the requirements.

St. Paul's PACE, a long-term comprehensive healthcare program, is an alternative to nursing home care for frail seniors who prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home.

It’s free to those with Medi-Cal or those who have a combination of Medi-Cal and Medicare.

PACE serves seniors with chronic health problems such as cognitive impairment, immobility and medical diagnosis which make it impossible for them to stay at home without the help of caregivers.

Marketing Director Amanda Gois said the PACE model is unique because it’s the only organization to keep low-income seniors in their homes.

“It’s like a small hospital, but also like a fun daycare program,” Gois said.

PACE offers primary and specialty care, emergency and urgent care, prescription medications, dentistry, podiatry, optometry and other long-term care services.

However, it also offers recreational therapy programs such as music, art and exercise.

The 17,400-square-foot facility cost $9 million to build. Numerous contributors donated the money.

A certified nursing assistant is sent to homes to prepare meals, do house cleaning, personal grooming and help with medication management.

“The goal is to keep seniors in their home — to live happily,” Gois said.

Gois said she hopes to open the new facility with 30 seniors and 30 staff who speak multiple languages, including Spanish and Tagalog, hired within Chula Vista and National City.

In the meantime, Gois said there will be a PACE team in the community to educate seniors and their family members on the facility.

Sixty-five percent of seniors in PACE are referred by the community, according to Gois.

Once seniors are approved, it takes from 15 to 45 days to get them enrolled following a mandatory medical assessment.

St. Paul’s opened San Diego’s first PACE center in March 2008 on Elm Street in San Diego, which serves nearly 200 seniors.

The new facility, located on L Street, can ultimately serve up to 500 seniors.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place last Friday. The facility is expected to open Aug. 1 at the latest.

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