Milwaukie special needs program in danger of closing

Special needs program may close

MILWAUKIE, Ore. -- The Edwards Center in Milwaukie offers a community where those with mental and physical challenges can go once they're too old for high school.

It’s served that community for 20 years but now is in danger of closing.

Johnny Ott is the house manager of the place Dennis Riedel, who sat in a wheelchair Monday, lives.

“Obviously wheelchair-bound, feeding tube, catheter, a lot of medical needs to which a lot of other programs don’t accept individuals like Dennis,” Ott said.

So he brings Dennis to the Edwards Center. It’s bad for him to just sit at home.

“And you know, to get up at 7 every morning and have a schedule, it’s incredibly important to Dennis to have that,” Ott said.

On a busy day, 50 clients gather here. It’s a doorway to a world that's hard to navigate alone.

“We take them for bowling trips  every other Wednesday,” said Amanada Montoya, one of the caregivers.

“We just, we let them experience life outside the walls of their home,” she said.

But the future of the Edwards Center is uncertain.

Several years ago, the state started changing the funding formulas, which cut money to the center.

A spokeswoman said the changes came from the federal level, which made changes in Medicare and Medicaid payments.

"We have initiated a discussion with Edwards Center about options under our current, approved Medicaid rates. Those discussions are in their early stages. Any rate adjustments will be based on the specific needs of the individuals served at the Milwaukie location," said Lilia Teninty, the Director of the Office of Developmental Disability Services.

Founder Jean Edwards said the change is draining money from the larger nonprofit's other programs.

“Our nonprofit has had to subsidize these programs to the tune of 14 to 20 thousand dollars a month,” she said.

Even determined fundraising has its limits.

“It’s tragic but a nonprofit can’t absorb those kinds of losses. We’ve done it for over five years,” said Edwards.

The Edwards Center in Milwaukie will close at the end of June unless something changes.

“Without Edwards center I have no idea what we’re going to do,” said Jane Egli, who’s brought her daughter Traci for nearly 20 years.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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