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Center sells its Key Pine Village

The Key Training Center has sold a component of its residential network to a St. Augustine company for $2.7-million.

The Key Center will still operate and manage Key Pine Village, so services will continue largely unaltered.

Still, the Feb. 14 sale to New Vue LLC marks a significant shift for the locally owned nonprofit.

The Key's annual fundraising drive, the Run for the Money, is probably the county's signature charity event. Since its founding in 1966, the center has forged a reputation as one of Citrus' most beloved institutions, renowned for its services and local focus.

Representatives from the center say that won't change.

The center losing its community feel "was something we were very concerned about," said Dr. Ed Dodge, vice president of the Key board. "But (executive director) Chet Cole is making sure there's no change in the way families are treated. It will continue to be very family oriented."

Key Pine Village, east of the Key's main campus off Van Nortwick Road, houses 48 residents with severe and profound mental retardation. It is one of four types of residential facilities run by the center. The others together house an additional 120 clients.

Because of its status as an intermediate care facility, Key Pine Village had become increasingly difficult to run financially, Key spokeswoman Melissa Walker said. The Medicaid reimbursement rates for the village had been capped, and the center found it hard to operate at the same level of quality.

"For the last 10 years there have been cutbacks in Medicaid," she said. "Since October 2004, we've experienced a reduction of $94,000 in funding" for the village.

About two years ago, the board began exploring other options and became serious about the prospect of a change during the past 12 months.

The Key board doesn't plan to sell any other properties, Walker said.

The Key Training Center helps more than 260 mentally handicapped people through its adult training program, supported independent living facilities, group homes and other residential resources.

Now that it's under new ownership, the Key Pine Village portion of the operation should be eligible for an additional $1.5-million in funding, according to Medicaid rules.

The center has a history of working with Scott Greiner, manager of New Vue, and board members felt "he had a heart for the developmentally disabled," Walker said.

The Key Center has entered into a management agreement with New Vue, and thus continues to operate the village. Should Greiner be unable to perform his duties, Walker said, the center has the legal and financial resources to take over.

The center plans to use money from the sale to pay off debts on the village, as well as to help finance the Chet Cole Life Enrichment Center, a food, entertainment and educational complex on the main campus slated to open soon.

Walker said the center will also be able to provide higher salaries for caregivers, which members hope will help slow down the staff turnover rate.

"This is not a population that deals well with change," she said.

Which is why the Key Center is insisting it continue daily operations.

"Lots of people have been there since (the village) opened in 1981," she said. "We feel our relationship with Scott is just like extending the family."

Elena Lesley can be reached at elesley@sppimes.com or 564-3627.

KEY PINE VILLAGE AT A GLANCE

WHO: Serves 48 clients who are severely and profoundly mentally challenged, who also may have secondary disabilities or problematic behavioral conditions.

WHAT: There is an individualized plan for each client. Services include room and board; psychological evaluation, monitoring, counseling and treatment; medical, nursing, dental and pharmacy care; habilitative training; behavioral training; speech, physical and occupational therapies; transportation and supervised leisure; and recreational activities.

WHERE: The village is on 13 acres just east of the main Key Center campus off Van Nortwick Road in Lecanto. Clients live in six co-educational, family-style homes situated around Rainbow Circle, a central park area canopied with tall pines. Residents enjoy private bedrooms and a semiprivate bath. Each 5,200-square-foot home features wall-to-wall carpeting, an emergency call system, fireplace, screened porch and oversized carport. Shared congregate areas include living room, dining room and kitchen. Clients receive three nutritionally balanced meals daily prepared by Key Pine's dietary staff.

HISTORY: The village was built in 1981 with funding from a HUD Section 202 loan. Key Pine Village was the second intermediate care facility for the mentally challenged built with HUD funding in the United States.

FUNDING: Funding comes from Medicaid. The village is operated as an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled.

MOVING ON: Since 1981, about one-third of all Key Pine clients have moved to less-restrictive living environments within the Key Training Center residential spectrum including group homes, apartment living and owning a home.

Source: Key Training Center

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