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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Beloved Fort Dodge service for adults with disabilities closes doors permanently

Because they also serve as a long-term care facility, Friendship Haven's Schmoker Day program has to permanently amid the pandemic.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken yet another community staple.  This time, it was the Fort Dodge community's loss, as the Friendship Haven Schmoker Adult Day Program is closing their doors for good.

The Schmoker Adult Day Program, which existed to provide a structured social activities and a place to socialize for adults with developmental disabilities, had been shut down since March because of COVID-19.  

In June, similar programs across the state of Iowa reopened, but Schmoker remained closed because of the burden the pandemic had placed on their facility, which also operates a long term care facility for senior centers.

Families say the recent news to close for good blindsided them, as they all hoped they could make it out on the other side of the pandemic.

Those most directly affected are the people who went there several times a week.

Adam Plautz doesn't have much to do nowadays.  Because of the shutdown, the 22-year-old hasn't been able to see his friends, aside from his puppy Alvie, for the last nine months.

Danielle Jessen is facing the same problem.

"It was really hard on me, because I'm used to going there during the day," Danielle said.  "They just have all different activities."

It was her home away from home for a decade.  It's where she met her boyfriend, who gave her a ring with both of their names on it.

Meaningful relationships like Danielle's, and Adam's with his friends, built in the program are only part of the reason why the announcement shocked so many.

RELATED: Families of children with disabilities are suing over closed schools

Danielle's mom Angie, along with now every other parent in the program, are wondering how her daughter will get by.

"I don't know what Danielle's going to do," Angie said.  "She can't just sit around all day.  That's what we've been doing since March."

Friendship Haven also serves as a long-term care facility.  The surge in cases happening across the state over the recent months brought a burden upon them that they simply couldn't recover from.

RELATED: Mental health, disability service providers reimbursed thousands for COVID-19 expenses

In a statement, CEO Julie Thorson said it was the pandemic and lack of reimbursement from Medicaid-managed care programs was ultimately what did them in.

Meanwhile, families are hoping for another option; any option.

"I never thought I'd still be fighting for basic services," Adam's mom Beth Plautz said.  "That's really hard, because I'm an older mother and my child doesn't have a voice."

The families are working with state legislators Senator Tim Kraayenbrink and Representative Ann Meyer to advocate for other safe, fulfilling options for their children.

Full statement from Julie Thorson below:

Friendship Haven agrees suspending this program is heartbreaking for our participants, families and team members. Unfortunately, the ongoing and future impact of the pandemic caused Friendship Haven to make the hard decision to suspend Schmoker Adult Day Service indefinitely. The impact of the pandemic and the lack of reimbursement from the Medicaid Managed Care programs may put other programs similar to ours in jeopardy as well. The pandemic is going  to hurt organizations like Friendship Haven who have offered community support programs like Schmoker Adult Day Services. This is a bigger societal issue than our program closing.

On communication:

In an effort to share information with as many people as possible on all events going on at Friendship Haven, as we have on a regular basis since March, the Facebook post was posted prior to clients families receiving notifications. That was unintended and we apologize for that communication not happening more timely.