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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Village Caregiving, headquartered in Barboursville, continues to grow and expand with over 100 new employees and two new locations that include one in Ashland, Kentucky and one in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. In this photo from left Matthew Walker, Jeff Stevens, Andrew Maass, Corey Watson and Ben Keenan.

BARBOURSVILLE — As the older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate in the United States, and particularly in the Tri-State region, those in need of home health care services is rising as well.

Almost $103 billion was spent on home health care in the United States in 2018, and that number will reach nearly $173 billion by 2026, according to an analysis from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary. The annual growth rate for home health spending is predicted to be 6.7% by 2020, which is higher than any other health care category tracked, according to the report.

That all means an expanding market for the home health care industry, and Village Caregiving, based in Barboursville, is feeling the effects. It continues to grow and expand its footprint in the Tri-State region with new offices and hundreds of new jobs.

"Just over the past year, we have experienced 60% growth in patients and revenue," said Jeff Stevens, one of the partners of the business. "We have been fortunate to experience growth organically, through acquisitions, expanding into new locations, and by exploring new alternative programs that provide revenue."

Village Caregiving was started in 2013 by a trio of law school graduates and entrepreneurs with 12 employees. Today, the privately owned home health company is serving hundreds of clients and has hit the 326-employee mark companywide.

"We now have locations in Barboursville, Charleston and Clarksburg and inside Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington, as well as recently new locations in Ashland, Kentucky, and Point Pleasant, West Virginia," Stevens said.

In Ashland, the company has gone from 20 clients and five caregivers to around 150 clients and 70 caregivers, said Ben Keenan, one of the new partners of the company.

"We have been able to take the same business model to Ashland and it has been very successful," Keenan said. "For us to sustain growth we must continue to strive to execute on our core values: client satisfaction, employee engagement and the use of common-sense principles to problem solve."

Corey Watson heads up the new location in Point Pleasant.

"One of the primary drivers that took us to the Point Pleasant market was to be able to better service the Ohio Medicaid PASSPORT waiver program clients in Gallipolis, Ohio, markets," Watson said.

During the past 18 months, the company has quadrupled its number of clients in the PASSPORT waiver program, which allows seniors who require a nursing facility level of care to remain living at home, or the home of a family member, and receive care in those locations.

Village Caregiving now fully participates in the Ohio PASSPORT program, Worker's Comp. and UMWA benefits. It also accepts private pay, LTC insurance, VA benefits and West Virginia Age and Disable Waiver Program. "For us, it's proven valuable not just to say 'no' when asked if we participate in a particular program. We want to have a consultative conversation, with a consumer or beneficiary, uncover what programs may be available to them and steer them in the right direction," Keenan said.

"The goal of most of these programs is to keep families in their homes," said Matt Walker, another one of the partners of the business.

According to a report from the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, a patient's home is likely to become the center of care delivery over the next few decades.

"Patients want to be home and want to have a better quality of life," Walker said. "Getting the highest quality in-home care services at the most affordable cost has always been the mission of Village Caregiving to help patients and families to be able to remain at home."

When Stevens, Walker and Andrew Maass began Village Caregiving on Main Street in Barboursville nearly seven years ago, they wanted to be guided by common-sense principles.

"We are all native West Virginians with deep roots in the Mountain State," Maass said. "All three of us had personal experience in care for an ailing loved one and saw the need for in-home care that is personal, dependable, competent, professional, caring and transparent."

"We feel extremely fortunate to have a successful business where we all were born and raised," Keenan said. "It feels good to stay here and be a part of something much larger than ourselves.We feel that being a part of Village Caregiving has allowed us to give back to a community that has been kind to us. We look forward to continued growth while attempting to add value to the community."

Stevens says he attributes the company's success to its understanding and recognition of the key elements needed to create a successful service.

"We have relied on personal relationships with our clients and their families and reputation building from the ground up," he said. "A crucial ingredient for achieving success in the in-home care industry is the bond and relationship between the client and caregiver."

Stevens says trust does not come easily.

"We have shown that we are a local company, and many of our clients choose us because of our relationships with area health care providers and the local community," he explained. "We have earned their trust and realize that each one of our clients is part of someone's family, which is why our caregivers treat them like family."

Maass says he and his partners understand that each client will have different and unique needs.

"We tailor our services to the individual client," he explained. "This is why we match personalities and needs effectively. We want our clients to trust and genuinely like their caregivers."

Stevens added that Village Caregiving has shown it is different from most in-home care businesses.

"We are not a chain, franchise or big business," he said. "We are local with deep roots in the community. We are individuals that grew up here and we are always going to be here. We are part of the communities we serve."

Maass says Village Caregiving doesn't do contracts or require patients to commit to a minimum number of hours of home health care services, but instead charges a flat rate of $16 to $17 an hour.

"One of our core principles is to keep rates considerably lower, so we guarantee to have the lowest rates in the area," Maass said.

Stevens says he is most proud of the amount of money that Village Caregiving saves its clients and families, as well as providing a livable wage for caregivers employed by the company.

A study released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the compound annual growth rate for home health care services from 2014 to 2024 would be nearly 5%, the highest among all industries. That will mean 760,400 new jobs, the report said. For all occupations in the home health care industry, the BLS projected that employment would rise from 1.26 million in 2014 to 2.02 million in 2024.

Maass says the company maintains stringent requirements for their caregivers.

"Our caregivers are experienced in the in-home care industry, they are bonded and insured, they have passed and remain subject to random drug screens, and they have been screened through criminal background checks and abuse databases," he said. "We're constantly looking for the best caregivers in the region and strive to reward them financially for joining our team and their dedication to hard work. We're also always willing to meet with agencies that may have a desire to exit this line of work. We have found in the past that we've been able to propose offers, that are mutually beneficially, that have allowed other owners of non-medical in-home caregiving companies a smooth exit strategy."

Maass said more than anything, Village Caregiving's priority is keeping loved ones safe and comfortable at home.

"If we continue to put the needs of the client and employee before the needs of business owners, I'm confident that success will continue to present itself," he said.

For the past 6 1/2 years, the company has kept to the same common-sense principles it started with, according to Maass.

"We decided that if we're fair, work hard and are honest, the company would grow," he said. "The growth and expansion of Village Caregiving has been remarkable, and we are hoping to announce more growth and expansion in Beckley, Princeton and more underserved counties in southern West Virginia, like Clay, Roane and Braxton."

For more information about Village Caregiving, call 304-690-4464 or visit www.villagecaregiving.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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