Ownership transfer to Virginia Mason assures AIDS care facility's survival

For those living and affected by HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 brought feelings of hope for the future. For those affected by the fatal disease locally, a crucial player in their lives was granted a new lease on its 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, the long-standing Bailey-Boushay House got the promise of a sustainable future.

An ownership transfer from Building Changes, the building's 15-year proprietor, to Virginia Mason Medical Center meant 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 Bailey-Boushay'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."

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

For the past 15 years, 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. Bailey-Boushay House was the first of its kind in the United States.

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

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 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 for care, a number of those are without the proper resources needed to receive treatment. Bailey-Boushay House's policy is to treat everyone.

"Our outpatient program does not turn anyone away from care," said Knowles, who noted that many of those living with AIDS 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 that medical center provided an additional $250,000 each year in on equipment upgrades and maintenance.

The building began taking shape in the early 1990s, when a group of local residents formed AIDS Housing of Washington and were 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 wear fearful of treating those living with [the disease]," said Knowles, who has been with the Bailey-Boushay House since its inception. "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, aid in managing addictions, mental illnesses and dementia, on-site laboratories, X-rays, ultrasounds and Doppler diagnostic studies and psychosocial support offered by social workers. Care for those living in the building is available around the clock.

The adult day health care program offers support group services, art programs, support for chemical dependency, massage therapy, medical and health education, a medication management program designed to assist in the administering of medication, mental health counseling, psychiatric evaluation, recreational activities and more.

The ownership transfer will mean no change in operations, personnel nor the way care is administered to those served by Bailey-Boushay. Since the staff was under Virginia Mason's management, patients should see virtually no lapse in services.

Building Changes - which was originally founded with the sole intention of constructing Bailey-Boushay House - will shift its attention to new developing new programs. It's new goal is to end homelessness.

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

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