Attorney general settles with troubled eldercare homes
A group of four troubled eldercare homes in Rutland have reached an agreement with the Vermont Attorney General's Office to resolve a state probe into lapses in care.
The settlement with the Our House residential care homes may also pave the way toend a court-ordered receivership and return management of the facilities to their local owner.
“The settlement with Our House requires remedies designed to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change to the quality of its residents’ care,” Attorney General Susanne Young said in a press release. Gov. Phil Scott appointed her in June following the resignation of TJ Donovan.
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Recurring problems at Our House were detailed in news reports by Seven Days and Vermont Public as part of ajoint investigation into residential care and assisted living homes, which, unlike nursing homes, are not subject to federal oversight. In June of last year,following a series of state regulatory violations in late 2020 and early 2021, including resident abuse and death, the Rutland chain agreed to cede control of the homes to a court-appointed receiver.
The Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit of the Attorney General's Office opened a separate investigation into the home, the settlement agreement signed on Tuesday reveals, though it outlines no new allegations beyond those already identified by state surveyors from the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living.
Under the terms of the settlement, Our House must designate an "internal compliance monitor" for at least two years and provide extra training and orientation to caregivers. If state surveyors cite the home for a serious violation of residential care home regulations during the next three years, the AG's office could impose a $40,000 fine.
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Our House co-owner Paula Patorti directed questions about the settlement to the court-appointed receiver, Mark Stickney of Spinglass Management.
In an interview on Wednesday, Stickney said Our House is already doing everything required under the settlement and has been for some time. Stickney said the Attorney General's Office — then under Donovan's leadership — didn't even alert him to its long-running investigation until April, months after he'd concluded that Our House no longer needed his oversight.
In fact, Stickney said he was impressed by Our House's management upon his appointment last year. Residents' families also supported the homes' leaders, he found. To Stickney, the situation stood in stark contrast to another set of troubled Vermont nursing homes he was called upon to clean up in 2018: the Pillsbury homes in northwestern Vermont, which nearly collapsed under the ownership of a Texas investor.
"I would put my own mother in that place," Stickney said of Our House.
Stickney declined to say whether he thought his receivership at Our House was necessary. He was clear, however, that he agreed to the settlement with the attorney general so Our House could move forward, and the state wouldn't stand in the way of ending the receivership.
"Instead of fighting with the state and having the cost of receivers and lawyers, the money needs to go toward the well-being of the residents," Stickney said. "I signed the settlement on that basis."
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The attorney general's chief of staff, Lauren Jandl, said the office disagreed with Stickney's "overall characterization," and noted that the settlement requires safeguards to remain in place after the receivership is terminated.
In light of the settlement, DAIL commissioner Monica White said her department is "evaluating" whether the current receivership should end.
"The receivership," White said, "has had its intended effect, to strengthen the Our House facilities’ ability to provide a higher quality of care to their residents."
This story was republished courtesy of Seven Days.