Editorial: DuPage County affirms commitment to the DuPage Care Center by devoting millions in federal money to improve the facility

This editorial is the consensus opinon of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

For generations, the DuPage Care Center in Wheaton has served a vital role in helping the one of the most vulnerable populations in DuPage County.

Originally opened as the County Alms House for the indigent in 1888, the care center evolved into a nursing facility in the 1930s. Today, the county-owned operation provides long-term care and short-term rehabilitative services for hundreds of patients, many of whom are on Medicaid.

But while the quality of care provided by the staff has not diminished, the building along County Farm Road is overdue for renovation.

As senior writer Katlyn Smith pointed out in a story last week, nursing stations are cramped, and resident rooms can feel dated. Meanwhile, there has not been a large-scale construction project at the county-owned facility since 1991.

That soon will change.

County officials have agreed to invest as much as $31.5 million to modernize the facility over the next three years. Planned improvements include a new entrance, more inviting communal areas and remodeled living spaces for its residents.

"This project will have an immense impact on the daily lives of our residents," said Janelle Chadwick, the care center administrator. "Their home will be less institutional, more tranquil, comfortable and will further their independence by allowing them to participate more in their activities of daily living."

County governments aren't required to operate long-term care facilities. Still, DuPage has remained committed to maintaining its care center. Moving ahead with this building renovation is a sign of that commitment.

The project is possible because DuPage was allotted roughly $179 million through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Previously, officials set aside $19.6 million in federal coronavirus relief funds and a $2 million donation from retired county judge Kenneth Moy to pay for the project.

But because of inflation and rising material prices, the estimated cost increased by more than $9 million. So county board members have agreed to earmark $3 million in additional American Rescue Plan funds, plus $3 million of the county's surplus revenue. In addition, the care center could reallocate $2.5 million in COVID-19 relief and $520,000 in capital reserves for the project.

There's no doubt the higher price tag of the project is eye-catching. However, DuPage County Board members deserve credit for not letting unforeseen changes prevent them from pursuing this unique opportunity to use federal dollars to improve the care center.

This project is a credible use of COVID-19 relief money. It will ensure the sustainability of the DuĀ­Page Care Center for decades to come.

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