To survive, the large Castle Peak Center is asking Eagle County for $1 million over the next two years

Castle Peak Senior Life has asked Eagle County for financial aid.
Nate Peterson / Phil Daily

The Eagle Senior Care Center needs some financial help.

During a Tuesday working session with the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, Castle Peak Senior Life and Rehabilitation representatives provided an overview of the center’s operations and needs.

Facility manager Shelly Cornish noted that the facility was highly rated in user surveys. Approximately 90% of the people at the facility are from Vail Valley or the wider region of Eagle County.

Kathy Cobb is the Strategic Director of Cassia Group, the Minnesota-based nonprofit group that owns and operates Castle Peak. Cobb reminded the commissioners of the community effort required to build Castle Peak and open it to customers in 2016. That impulse came from seeing so many long-term residents who had to move away from the valley due to a lack of long-term care.

Cobb noted that it was “not easy” to build Castle Peak, noting that it took a community partnership to get it done.

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Cobb noted that it is now more difficult to fill staff positions than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes up to 80% of the facility’s skilled nursing staff are traveling professionals. This, she said, is “significantly” more expensive.

Cornish said the facility was recently able to hire five certified nursing assistants, thanks in part to an increase of $5 an hour. The salaries of other employees have also been increased.

Cassia CEO Bob Dahl told commissioners that hiring is challenging across the company’s network. But, he added, “the challenges are more acute here.”

Dahl used the example of Cassia, which has successfully recruited 58 registered nurses from other countries for all of its facilities. All of these professionals – all from English-speaking countries – came with “excellent” qualifications, Dahl said. But many of these nurses left Castle Peak. Dahl said these people cannot afford to buy homes in the valley.

“If we are full, we should be financially stable,” Dahl said. But costs exceed revenues, in part because government compensation has not kept pace with inflation and other factors.

That led to Dahl’s request: $750,000 in county funds for this year, with another $250,000 for 2024.

While a decision could not be made on Tuesday, Commissioner Jane Makweni said: “We have to find a way to ensure that Castle Peak stays here.”

Commissioner Cathy Chandler Henry noted that residents and family members benefit from care close to home.

Chandler Henry added that there is an often overlooked economic impact when an older resident has to leave the county. “It’s a huge loss,” she said.

County manager Jeff Schroll noted that he’s had several family members over the years at other facilities across the West Slope. He said he wished these relatives were at Castle Peak.

Chandler Henry asked Castle Peak representatives to think about the revenue on a three-year timetable, to 2025.

“Ask for what you need, and let us help you find it,” said Chandler Henry.

With expressions of support, County Finance Director Jill Klosterman said later this month commissioners will consider additional budget allocations. She said this year’s Castle Peak application could be included in this appropriation.

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“We have solid reserves,” Klostermann added. And while sales tax growth has slowed, Klosterman said she has “no qualms” about getting the resources needed for the county.

Pat Hammon is on the Castle Peak board. Referring to the facility’s achievements since its opening, and especially in the past year, Hamon said, “We appreciate any help you can provide.”

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