Mental health board to buy house intended for Guest Home residents

Two people playing key roles in the purchase of a new foster home in Enterprise to house displaced Pioneer Guest Home residents are Diana Jannuzzi and Bill Reynolds. Jannuzzi will be program manager of the facility while Reynolds is chairman of the Wallowa Valley Mental Health Center board of directors. Photo by Rocky Wilson

The Wallowa Valley Mental Health Center board of directors is purchasing a house in Enterprise to create a foster home situation for five Pioneer Guest Home residents in danger of being forced out on to the streets. A sixth will be placed in an independent living situation in the Coleman & Chrismas building while new homes are being sought for two older Guest Home residents, possibly a nursing home situation.

"As far as I know this is the only mental health center that has ever owned a foster care home," said Wallowa Valley Mental Health Director Kim Shurtleff.

The downsizing of the Pioneer Guest Home client base from 26 beds to 16 beds will allow the disabled adult facility to be supplemented by federal dollars instead of troubled state general fund moneys.

The board of directors is taking a loan from Community Bank to purchase a home at 103 NE Silver Street near Wallowa Memorial Hospital. Diana Jannuzzi, who has 17 years of experience working with mental health in Wallowa County, including nine years at the Pioneer Guest Home, will be program manager of the new foster home. New jobs will be created and Shurtleff has encouraged Jannuzzi to hire workers displaced by the downsizing of the Guest Home and Mental Health.

The emergency measures were triggered by the state of Oregon's budgetary crisis which is directly impacting all state agencies.

Shurtleff said that the Pioneer Guest Home was slated for closure, but quick action by the board of directors brought the enrollment down to the federal funding level and is finding homes in the community for all displaced residents.

The loan to purchase the foster home will be repayed by social security benefits and state of Oregon service payments assigned to the individual clients.

The purchase of the new home is set to close Jan. 15. It is to be remodeled and licensed by Feb. 1, the target date to move the residents out of the Pioneer Guest Home and comply with the federal ceiling of 16 residents.

The new foster home residents have been selected and have already named their new facility Blue Horizon.

Because financing is tight, Shurtleff is asking the community to step forward and help furnish the foster home. She says that furniture, linen, household items, dishes, towels and anything else to create a new home are needed. People wishing to donate items may phone either Shurtleff or Jannuzzi at 426-4524, or send an email to kimshurtleff@hotmail.com.

Shurtleff says the displaced residents "are excited not to be homeless."

The members of the Wallowa Valley Mental Health board of directors who have been monitoring the state budgetary situation closely are chairman Bill Reynolds, Clint Stein, Carolyn Pfeaster, Verna Slane, Doug Cracraft, Eve Slinker and Evelyn Swart.

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