Southern Administrative Services will spend $11 million to re-develop the Walnut Ridge Nursing and Rehab facility. Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp said this is the largest private investment ever in the community that sits on the edge of the Arkansas Delta and serves as the county seat for Lawrence County.

The Green House Cottages of Walnut Ridge represents both the development of a new long-term care campus and the total redevelopment of the existing nursing home facility. It is the sixth Arkansas Green House Cottage development for the company.

“The Green House Cottage isn’t just a new building; it’s an entirely different model for delivery of long-term care,” said John Ponthie, managing member of Southern Administrative Services. “Elders live in small homes no more than 12 in any one home. They are cared for by a dedicated staff who often work only in that one home. They have a state-of-the-art kitchen and choices about their food; they have front and back porches and nature around. They keep their own schedules. They have agency and choice and dignity.”

“This is a significant shift in how long-term care is delivered and we’re excited that Walnut Ridge and northeast Arkansas are the next communities to experience this new model of care for its loved ones,” Ponthie added.

Ponthie noted in his remarks that the Walnut Ridge home had been the network’s hardest hit by COVID-19 and this announcement underscores the organization’s commitment to elder safety, infection control and the northeast Arkansas area.

“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% reported having zero COVID-19 infections. In these times of COVID, and in the years ahead, the Green House is clearly the safest environment for our loved ones who require skilled nursing care.”

Southern has brought four to the state in Magnolia, Rison, Paragould and Little Rock. Another development is underway in Mena, to be called the Green House Cottages of Homewood. Construction will begin this fall and opening is slated for the summer of 2021.

There will be four new buildings set in cottage style with private suites for each resident. The existing building will be renovated to become exclusively private rooms. With the four new cottages, the facility will total 64 beds; there are 12 rooms for elders in each cottage.

The new cottages will add 32,000 square feet to the Walnut Ridge facility. A spa/beauty shop, library, living room with fireplace, and state-of-the-art kitchen with stainless steel appliances will be aviliable to all residents. There is no signage, no posted notifications, no beeping call lights, no flashing lights – none of the traditional visual cues of an institutional setting. Outside the cottages, landscaping and front and back porches on each cottage further simulate the atmosphere of a traditional home.

“Virtually every aspect of this small-home approach to elder care is an improvement on the traditional model the industry has pursued for decades,” said John Montgomery, the lead for special projects within Southern Administrative Services and the point person on the Walnut Ridge development. “We believe that everyone in Arkansas should have access to the best long-term care that can be designed. That’s why with this announcement in Walnut Ridge we are also declaring our vision that a Green House Cottage facility should be no more than 60 miles from any community and any family in Arkansas.”

State Rep. Fran Cavenaugh, R-Walnut Ridge, said, “This is a bright new day for elder care in Northeast Arkansas. Once you learn about the Green House Cottages, you know this is the type of care you would want for your mother, your father, your grandparents, yourself.”

Cavenaugh mentioned the job-creation engine of the $11 million development budget and the future growth in payroll as boons to the community.

“Creating a safer environment, more dignified elder care, boosting jobs and economic activity – this is the kind of positive news we’re eager to hear as we as a society learn how to navigate the pandemic and the post-pandemic world.”

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