MANKATO — The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded senior housing and aging-services provider Ecumen $265,000 to fund the expansion of its dementia-care program into Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato and assisted-living communities throughout the state.

Ecumen Pathstone Living will use the funding to extend the Ecumen Awakenings program to its assisted-living facility. It had used part of a 2010 DHS grant to fund the program at its long-term care facility.

The new grant is for a one-year pilot program in 14 of Ecumen’s 33 assisted-living communities, according to a press release.

Executive Director Jennifer Pfeffer said it is hard to say what portion of the $265,000 grant will go to Pathstone but noted the grant will be rolled out to all the sites.

“I think the benefit it brings to the residents is tremendous,” Pfeffer said. “We’re very excited for this opportunity.

The Ecumen Awakenings program emphasizes improving residents’ quality of life and managing Alzheimer’s and related dementias without highly sedating drugs, according to the release.

In 2010 Shoreview-based Ecumen received a DHS grant to introduce the Awakenings program at 15 of its skilled-nursing locations after the success of a pilot program created by Ecumen staff, according to the release. Awakenings achieved a 97 percent reduction in the use of psychotropic medications, decreasing dosage or discontinuing use of more than 1,000 potentially harmful drugs, the release said.

“We've learned a great deal from our initial pilot care centers in Minnesota,” Shelly Cornish, director of housing at Ecumen Pathstone Living, said in the release. “We're greatly looking forward to building upon that success in Mankato.”

Ecumen operates in 37 cities in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Idaho and Tennessee. In Mankato, Pathstone’s long-term care facility serves about 70 people, and its assisted-living facility serves about 80.

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