Deed swap 'secures the future' for Valley AIDS care center

For those touched by HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 brought feelings of hope for the future. For those affected by the disease in and around Seattle, a crucial player in their lives was granted a new lease on life.

While masses gathered in the streets of major metropolitan cities, on college campuses and in churches for the purpose of educating, supporting and honoring those lost to AIDS, the long-standing Bailey-Boushay House in Madison Valley got the promise of a sustainable future.

An ownership transfer from the building's 15-year proprietor, Building Changes, to Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) means security for many years to come.

"This building has always been about the community and for the people it serves," said Brian Knowles, who has served as the building's executive director for the past four years. "We asked ourselves, 'What is going to secure the future of this building the best?' Everyone felt that that answer was Virginia Mason."

The building has stood for more than 15 years on East Madison Street as an institution for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. Offering short-term, long-term as well as drop-in care for those living with the virus within the community, Bailey-Boushay House sees more than 500 people annually, many of those without suitable, if any, health insurance.

For the past decade and a half, Virginia Mason and Building Changes-formerly known as AIDS Housing of Washington, until a recent change of title-have worked under an operating agreement, with Virginia Mason providing technical assistance to the building since 1992.
It was the first institution of its kind within the United States.

With their operating agreement set to expire at the end of 2007, Building Changes chose to gift the $8-million building to Virginia Mason on Dec. 1, to celebrate VMMC's operating anniversary and World AIDS Day, as well.

Bailey-Boushay House offers two formal services-a residential care program for long-term care and an adult day health program for their outpatients. In all, the building has 35 single rooms available for patients living with AIDS and other terminal illnesses such as ALS and cancer.

While most of the building's patients rely on Medicaid and insurance to pay for care, a number of those living with HIV/AIDS are existing without the proper resources needed to receive treatment. Nonetheless, Bailey-Boushay's policy is to treat everyone who walks through their doors.

"Our outpatient program does not turn anyone away from care," said Knowles, who noted that many of those living with the disease need to take, on average, 13 different medications each day. "It's our responsibility to treat everyone who needs care and walks through our doors."

Knowles estimated that the building provides nearly $600,000 annually in free care-a cost already absorbed by Virginia Mason. He also said the medical center provided an additional $250,000 each year for equipment upgrades and maintenance.

The building began taking shape in the early 1990s, with a group of local residents-then AIDS Housing of Washington-looking for a way to create a space that could provide care for people living with AIDS and HIV.

"Back then, hospitals and nursing homes were fearful of treating those living with [the disease]," said Knowles, who has been with Bailey-Boushay House since it first opened its doors. "The disease was so new. Today, health care treatment has opened up to the treatment of HIV and AIDS, though society, as a whole, still has some work to do."

Typically, those who receive treatment from Bailey-Boushay House are in the more serious stages of the disease's progress. The residential care program offers a number of services, including pain management, end of life and hospice care, acupuncture and naturopathic medications, as well as X-rays, ultrasounds and Doppler diagnostic studies. Care for those occupying the building is available around the clock.

The adult day health care program offers to outpatients such services as art programs, support for chemical dependency, massage therapy, medical and health education, recreational activities and more.

The ownership transfer signals no change in operations, personnel or the way care is administered to those serviced by Bailey-Boushay. Since staff was under Virginia Mason's management, patients will see virtually no lapse in services.

Building Changes, which originally was founded with the sole intention of constructing Bailey-Boushay House, will shift its attention to new developing new programs, with a goal of ending homelessness.

"Health care is changing drastically and getting more and more expensive," Knowles said. "We're happy to know that the building will be around for a long time."

Bailey-Boushay House is located at 2720 E. Madison St. For more information on the building visit www.virginiamason.org/bailey-boushay.

Reporter Josh Sabrowski can be reached via mptimes@nwlink.com.