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"This is a tragedy": Knoxville assisted living facility to close, relocate dozens of residents due to funding shortfalls

Renaissance Terrace Assisted Living Facility on North Broadway said funding decisions from a state program and escalating costs led to the closure.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville assisted living facility said it is closing its doors for good in April and relocating its residents due to large funding shortfalls.

Renaissance Terrace Assisted Living Facility on North Broadway said escalating costs and funding decisions from Tennessee's TennCare CHOICES program led to the closure.

"We are losing $30,000 a month," said Tim Howell, the CEO of the Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service. "The board and I are saddened to take this step, but the current financial situation is unsustainable. We are going to do everything in our power to help the residents find care at other facilities."

The SCHAS said it will continue to offer home care to roughly 2,000 seniors and disabled people in East Tennessee, but plans to sell the Renaissance Terrace building at 215 Bearden Place and relocate its offices.

The facility is scheduled to close on April 15, 2022. SCHAS said it has told its 45 residents and their families about the closing, saying it will help them find other care options in the area. Employees are being asked to stay during that period and are being offered severance packages.

It's where Elsie Becker, 96, has lived for the last decade.

"They've kept her safe and healthy and content," her daughter Lisa Gentry said. "I'm devastated. This is a tragedy. It shouldn't be allowed to happen."

She hopes they'll find a last-minute way to keep the facility open. Otherwise, she'll have to find her mother a new place to live.

"It's kind of brutal to put a 96-year-old woman into a new facility to try to learn her way around," Gentry said. "It's easier when you're younger to adjust."

Howell said the facility saw a sharp increase in costs for labor, supplies and liability insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said staffing numbers also fell despite salary increases to retain and attract new employees. 

The SCHAS said payments from the state's TennCare CHOICES program has not risen to meet the increased costs it is seeing, saying the program had been paying $1,100 per month for senior care before raising it to $1,305 a month with restrictions on how the money could be spent, which it said was less than the cost of care.

"Facing a crisis, SCHAS asked the agency to provide flexibility to spend the funds where needed the most. TennCare CHOICES refused," it said. "As of this date, the TennCare CHOICES program still has not released the $137,500,000 in new funds to home and community-based services, such as Renaissance Terrace, from the American Rescue Plan Act."

The SCHAS has operated Renaissance Terrace in the Knoxville area for 13 years as a lower-cost nonprofit assisted living facility, saying it wanted to create a less-expensive facility with high-quality care.