Walnut Ridge Nursing & Rehab to expand with new $11 million assisted living facility

The groundbreaking ceremony took place Tuesday morning.
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 7:14 PM CDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - A groundbreaking ceremony for a new $10.9 million assisted living complex next to the Walnut Ridge Nursing and Rehab Center happened Tuesday morning.

The investment is the largest private investment recorded in the Walnut Ridge community. Mayor Charles Snapp said a “huge gap” in Walnut Ridge has now been filled with this development.

“To say the least, I am Walnut Ridge proud,” Mayor Snapp said. “$11 million is a big project anywhere, but it’s especially a large project for Walnut Ridge and all of Lawrence County.

Dozens of local and state officials gathered at Walnut Ridge Nursing and Rehab to hear the details of the new Green House Cottages of Walnut Ridge facility.

The complex is being developed by Southern Administrative Services and will have four new buildings with private suites for each resident.

It’s 64 beds in all, and it will add 32,000 square feet to the Walnut Ridge facility.

Once it’s built, renovations will happen for the rest of the nursing and rehab center.

This is the sixth Green House Cottage in Arkansas, including one at the Belle Meade facility in Paragould.

Managing Director John Ponthie said expanding in Walnut Ridge was an easy decision.

“Communities like Walnut Ridge have the heart and soul, and have a community commitment that makes this model work well,” Ponthie said.

Ponthie also noted that the facility will be well-equipped to prevent the spread of diseases, especially with COVID-19.

“COVID-19 hit nursing homes hard, all across the country,” Ponthie said. “But through May, of 229 facilities responding to a survey by the nonprofit Green House Project, 95 percent reported having zero Covid-19 infections. In these times of COVID, and the years ahead, the Green House is the safest environment for our loved ones who require skilled nursing care.”

The facility is expected to be finished in the middle of 2021.

The news is one that elders at the nursing facility have been waiting to hear, especially after dealing with COVID-19 back in May.

A total of 54 residents have tested positive since the outbreak began.

One of those 54 is Frances Decker. She tested positive three separate times for COVID-19.

“When it first started, we didn’t know what to expect,” Decker said.

She described the uncertainty she felt when the coronavirus outbreak first hit. Then, she tested positive. Not just one time, but three times.

Decker said thankfully, the majority of the residents were asymptomatic, herself included, so they did not feel the effects that COVID-19 brought.

“It was a miracle from God that we all came through it like we did,” Decker said. “God kept His hand upon me and kept me safe through it all.”

Frances credits the staff at the center for the hours they’ve worked to take care of the elders. She says they’ve helped the elders get through the coronavirus hitting the facility together.

“When they opened up those doors the day after we were all free of the virus, I said ‘Oh, I see the light at the end of the tunnel,’” Frances said. Ponthie said the nursing home beating COVID makes this day all the better.

“That’s the amazing, amazing part,” Ponthie said. “This story wouldn’t be half as good, but for the fact that those elders and that staff went through what they did, and they did amazing. The heroes that work here, and the elders and their resiliency is the story.”

Frances says the residents have been looking forward to the groundbreaking of the new facility for a long time, and she says she’s excited to move in.

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