Dear Editor: 

The Monroe County Commission indicates it may no longer support assisted care.

I get the feeling that after over 60 years the Monroe County Commission is withdrawing its support for assisted care in Monroe County. This is shameful.

Recently, additional arguments have been made that the BOCC should not support Poinciana Gardens because it continues a misguided procedure of spending taxpayer funds to assist elder care and the concept of aging-in-place. And further, that Poinciana Gardens exists solely for those living from Key West to perhaps Marathon and nothing farther north than that because there are elder-care facilities in Homestead.

What these contentions ignore is that for approximately 80 years, Monroe County has been the financial engine for Bayshore Manor, a 16-bed assisted living facility for financially-strapped elders. This worthwhile endeavor has unfortunately cost more than ever anticipated and is now a burden on county funds in a yearly amount closely approximating $1.3 million to $1.5 million. That expenditure will continue unabated unless alternatives are ultimately agreed upon by the city of Key West and the Monroe County governments.

It appears clear to any interested citizen that the BOCC should close Bayshore, move the occupants and staff to Poinciana Gardens, and work out a financial arrangement with the City of Key West to share costs on a reasonable basis and thereby reduce Monroe County’s yearly significant Bayshore outlay.

It is patently clear that the funds to be received from the city will reduce the present shortfall but there are meaningful other benefits for the county. First, the county reacquires the Bayshore Manor building, which can be used for other purposes or torn down so the land can be used for possible county projects or new buildings.

Second, the county could reduce its commercial space rental expenses by transferring the Social Services department, which is now at the Gato Building, to Poinciana Gardens, and in so doing allow other county employees to move into the vacated space at the Gato Building. This might save perhaps as much as $250,000 per year.

And Monroe County could save the current $5 million now budgeted by the county by using Poinciana Gardens as a place for non-resident seniors to hear lectures, listen to live music, play bridge and bingo, etc., rather than constructing a new Senior Center at Truman and Georgia next to the Harvey Government Center here in Key West.

By doing all this, the BOCC has a really good chance in the short run to break even or make a profit. Plus, we cannot underestimate the benefits to Monroe County’s elders and their families. There is a human factor present here that cannot be ignored or marginalized. Politics cannot be a cut-and-dried adding-and-subtracting vehicle, separated from all feelings and concepts for those who are trying to deal with the problems and vicissitudes of advanced age.

What are the BOCC’s alternatives if it decides to not go forward? Does the BOCC really want to continue to sponsor Bayshore Manor at an exorbitant yearly amount? Is it the BOCC’s plan to dismantle Bayshore and send its occupants home — if there is, in fact, a home — and discharge the Bayshore staff? Both are obviously bad options from humanistic and financial standpoints.

During the COVID-19 crisis, neither Bayshore Manor nor Poinciana Gardens could accept new clients. Now that this is over, the number of residents is once again growing. Combined, the two centers will house about 70 elders. In addition, Poinciana Gardens is now able to set up senior day care and respite care for elders whose caretaking families must work, have difficult daily schedules or travel. Such day and respite care will be an additional source of revenue for Poinciana Gardens and the county..

Poinciana Gardens needs about 85 full-time residents to break even. We believe the facility can attain that number of residents and that it will be filled to capacity before the conclusion of this year, or at the latest, in early/mid 2022. We cannot let our assisted care and elderly fellow citizens and their families down.

Thank you,

Edwin Swift III (on behalf of the Florida Keys Assisted-Care Coalition)

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