End may be near for Lake County's Winchester House nursing home

The private company that operates the Winchester House nursing home has plans to close the county-owned facility in Libertyville and build something new in Mundelein.

If Lisle-based Transitional Care Management's $30 million proposal moves forward, it would officially mark the end of Lake County's long involvement with Winchester House, a relationship that goes back nearly 170 years.

It also would create a modern medical facility in central Lake County, one especially designed for the region's older residents.

"As the baby boomers age, it is important for communities to provide facilities that will meet their needs in the future," Mundelein Village Administrator John Lobaito said. "Although the plans are conceptual at this point, we are very excited about (TCM) choosing Mundelein as the place for their latest facility."

Public to private

Located on Winchester Road at Milwaukee Avenue near downtown Libertyville, Winchester House opened as Lake County's poor farm in 1847. The current building dates to 1942, although there was an addition in the 1970s.

Lake County owns the building, but private companies have run the nursing home since 2011, when the county board decided multimillion-dollar losses prompted by declining revenue, rising costs and other factors made operating Winchester House financially untenable.

Winchester House

"In order to preserve the long-standing mission of providing long-term nursing care to residents, the only viable option was to transition to a private company," Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said.

Under a three-year contract approved in May 2015, Transitional Care Management leases the building and equipment from the county for about $480,000 annually.

But money flows the other way, too. Because the building is old and inefficient by modern standards, the county pays TCM about $1.6 million annually to help operate Winchester House, said Gary Gordon, the county's director of finance and administration.

As part of the pact, Transitional Care Management agreed to build a new facility at a different site in Lake County by May 2018.

The agreement specifies care at the new facility must be offered to all of Winchester House's existing patients.

"It is the right thing to do," said Mike Filippo, TCM's chief operating officer.

A $30 million project

Transitional Care Management would run the new facility. The companies that would oversee the $30 million project are Innovative Health of Rosemont and RangeComm Development of St. Louis. Both companies specialize in health care-related real estate. They recently teamed to build and operate Transitional Care of Arlington Heights.

The Mundelein site is on Route 45 east of Route 83, on the village's south side. It's between the Dover Straits restaurant and a long-vacant commercial building.

Covering about 11 acres, the site has never been developed. Once home to a golf driving range, lately it's been known as the Oak Creek Soccer Plex and is used for weekend games. It's also within a seven-mile radius of Winchester House, a zone county officials call the facility's "primary service area."

Between 75 percent and 80 percent of Winchester House patients come from that zone, Lake County Administrator Barry Burton said, and it was important to the county that the new facility locate within the same area.

"They have met those requirements with the proposed Mundelein site," Burton said.

The proposed 93,340-square-foot building would have room for 185 patients in long-term nursing home care and rehabilitation services or Alzheimer's care, all in separate wings.

Winchester House accepts private-pay patients, Medicare and Medicaid. That will continue at the replacement facility, Filippo said.

According to the Winchester House website, the fees for patients are determined annually by the county board and also by the patient's level of need.

Private-pay prices will be within 3 percent of Winchester House's final rates, Filippo said, and the move won't affect federal insurance rates.

"Nobody will be priced out of the new building," he said.

Lobaito is a fan of the proposal, saying it's "very good" for Mundelein and its older residents.

"Mundelein has more than 4,000 people over the age of 60," Lobaito said. "With the advances in health care across the country, we anticipate the population over 60 years of age will continue to climb significantly higher than what we have experienced in past generations."

Mundelein stands to benefit financially, too.

Because the new medical facility would be run by a for-profit company, it would generate property taxes - and some of that money would go to the village, as well as local schools.

Lawlor believes the center would boost the local retail economy as well.

"The new (facility) will draw more people to that area, and that creates the opportunity for more money to be spent at local businesses," said Lawlor, whose county board district includes the proposed Mundelein site.

What's next

Before construction begins, the project must get the go-ahead from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. Innovative Health has applied for the necessary state permit and is awaiting approval.

A decision is expected this spring, officials said.

"These can sometimes take on a life of their own, but we're rooting for the approvals to all go through," Mayor Steve Lentz said.

If the project clears that important hurdle, the village will need to rezone the property to accommodate a medical facility.

A special-use permit is needed, too.

"While we are very excited to be moving forward, we stay cautiously optimistic in receiving the approvals we need to launch the project," Filippo said.

Regardless of whether the Mundelein plan is approved, Transitional Care Management has to be out of Winchester House in three years.

Lake County officials have no plans for the site, nor have there been any discussions about what to do with the building or the land.

"Once the move is complete, we will begin that discussion," Lawlor said.

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