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Block nurse program undergoes restructuring; chairman says shift is to enable continued growth

WILLMAR -- The Living At Home Block Nurse Program announced a restructuring Monday that will help local neighborhood-based eldercare programs prepare for Minnesota's demographic shifts.

The nonprofit, previously known as the Elderberry Institute, is now named the Living At Home Network. The organization will retain its original mission of supporting this model of care, unique in Minnesota, of assisting older people to keep living in their own homes as long as possible. The Living At Home Network contains 43 programs statewide, with one in Atwater and Willmar.

"Our local program makes it possible for older people to stay happy and healthy in the homes that they love, preventing expensive institutional care for many of us in the Willmar area," said John Dean, chairman of the board of the Willmar Living At Home Network.

He said the restructuring will help the local program continue to grow and serve the aging population, as well as coordinate with other organizations that provide services for older adults.

"It is really exciting to see people work together for the good of their neighbors and the community," Dean said.

The restructuring of the Living At Home Network included election of a new board of directors and adoption of a revised budget, while maintaining continuity in the mission, bylaws and in ongoing management of fiscal agent and grant reporting services.

The purpose of the restructuring was to streamline the budget and prioritize services and to leverage more directly almost 30 years of grassroots experience and expertise in neighborhood and community-based care.

Government and foundation resources have declined in recent years, while the number of Minnesota elders has grown and their economic and health status is threatened in many cases. The budget for the Living At Home Network is now smaller than before, but more focused on providing services to assist the independent community and neighborhood programs.

The board of directors is now comprised primarily of representatives of existing local programs -- six members representing Twin Cities-area programs and six members representing Greater Minnesota programs. The board also includes representatives from UCare Minnesota, AARP Minnesota and Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging.

The first Block Nurse Program in the United States began in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul in 1981. At the same time, the Macalester/Groveland and West Seventh neighborhoods of St. Paul were selected to implement the Living At Home project as part of a national Living At Home demonstration project. The two models ultimately were merged to form the Living At Home/Block Nurse Program. The model has been replicated in many neighborhoods, cities, and in one countywide program in Minnesota.