Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ CEO Chris Baechle

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ CEO Chris Baechle
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We thank Chris Baechle, CEO, Cardinal Ritter Senior Services for this interview opportunity. He discussed business operations and strategy with Rochelle Brandvein, President, Brandvein Aaranson Public Relations, and Neel Achary, Editor, Business News This Week.

Tell us about the vision or goal of Cardinal Ritter Senior Services (CRSS.)

Our ultimate goal is to provide compassionate, loving, and individual care to each older adult we serve.

How does your organization help people? What are your major programs and services?

Our main objective: is to provide independence, options, and the highest quality of service to senior adults. We feature a continuum of care – including social services and supportive programs including counseling, emergency support, rehabilitative therapy, and senior employment – to meet the needs of older adults.

How many people work at CRSS? Describe your various locations?

We have approximately 380 employees working at our 10 locations throughout the St. Louis region. Our communities include the following:

  • Our Lady of Life independent living apartments has 205 apartments and was founded in 1982. CRSS also features 10 affordable HUD senior complexes with a total of 611 apartments located throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan area.
  • Mary, Queen and Mother Center is a 230-bed skilled nursing facility for long-term care, memory care, and short-term rehabilitative services that was founded in 1981.
  • CRSS has two assisted living communities:
  • Elizabeth Hall, which opened its West End location in 1983, has 45 apartments that offer traditional assisted living for low-income seniors who may have mental health challenges.
  • Mother of Perpetual Help (MOPH), which opened its Shrewsbury main campus in 1996, features 96 apartments. Two memory care communities – Grace and Faith – opened in 2013 and have 30 studio apartments located within the MOPH assisted living community.

How did COVID impact your organization?

The impact on our community has been significant since older adults are one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19. One of our biggest challenges during the last two years has been keeping our residents all safe during the pandemic.

We have made great strides throughout this time period. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which tracks COVID-19 vaccination levels for nursing homes, CRSS was one of the first communities to achieve the highest vaccination rates in the entire state of Missouri. We currently have 98% of our residents and 95% of our staff are vaccinated or have valid religious or medical exemptions.

What is your current plan of action when dealing with the ongoing COVID climate?

Our initiative to keep both our residents and our staff safe has resulted in better communication among our communities. We continue to invent ways how to remain as healthy as possible. This includes sharing our heightened sanitation methods, monitoring guests who visit and keeping our residents as socially engaged as possible. We also are just as focused on their mental well-being as we do their physical wellness.

Have you experienced any recent major innovations?

We recently broke ground on a $6.5 million, nearly 20,000-square-foot memory care expansion, which will have two separated homelike neighborhoods of 13 residents each for a total of 26 residents.

The expansion project differs from more medically intense dementia care programs. Features include a natural environment with cutting-edge technology to help mitigate the effects of “sundowning,” a state of increased confusion and restlessness for those with dementia which begins or worsens as daylight starts to fade.

Can you give us background regarding how CRSS was created?

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services (CRSS) is an agency of Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of St. Louis that provides compassionate care through a continuum of high-quality residential, healthcare, and supportive social services. Inspired by Jesus Christ, its long tradition focuses on providing independence, options, and the highest quality of service to senior adults.

Catholic Charities of St. Louis created the framework for CRSS following a 1959 comprehensive study on the needs of seniors in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Initially established as the Catholic Charities’ Department of Aging in 1961, the agency was later renamed the Cardinal Ritter Institute in 1965. In 2004 the organization’s name was changed to Cardinal Ritter Senior Services to best reflect its mission and purpose.

What is your message to the people and community you serve?

Here in our communities, we treat older adults just like you would any member of your own family: with unconditional care, support, and kindness. We offer an all-inclusive community where we provide social services and supportive programs that include counseling, emergency support, rehabilitative therapy, and senior employment. We are extremely proud of both our services and our team.

About Cardinal Ritter Senior Services

Founded in 1961, Cardinal Ritter Senior Services (CRSS) creates communities that promote the dignity of human life and reflect the spirit of Jesus Christ. CRSS impacts nearly 3,750 seniors – with 60% of the 1,711 directly served lacking adequate resources – who benefit from housing options including independent or assisted living, memory care, affordable apartments, and skilled nursing communities. In addition to its main Shrewsbury campus located at 7601 Watson Rd., the nonprofit has 10 affordable HUD total apartment communities throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan area and a robust social services department. For more information, call (314) 961-8000 or visit http://www.cardinalritterseniorservices.org.

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