The woman in charge of overseeing elder care in Connecticut tried to reassure a roomful of employees, residents, and their families at Derby’s Marshall Lane Manor that state officials would listen to their voices carefully when deciding whether to close the facility.
Two minutes later, the man whose family built it more than 40 years ago cried as he told them how proud he was of Marshall Lane, but that the family just can’t afford to keep it open — unless the state gives them more money to take care of people.
The owner, Anthony Simonetti, was the first speaker at a public hearing Friday (March 13) held by the state’s Department of Social Services on whether Marshall Lane Manor will shut down.
Simonetti’s family has filed paperwork seeking to close the rest home. Click here for a previous story.
If social services agrees with them, 99 people will have to find a new place to live and 91 people will have to find new jobs.
It’s a sad end, Simonetti said.
“We as a family and I personally are proud to say that Marshall Lane Manor’s staff of dedicated personnel have professionally and personally served the residents of MLM for 42 years, 24/7,” Simonetti said as his emotions rose.
“No matter the weather, time of day or the care needed by a resident, they’ve provided all the services and tender, loving care that goes along with quality medical care.”
That’s why his family’s decision to close Marshall Lane was so agonizing, he said.
Please Keep It Open
Before Simonetti’s remarks, Nancy Shaffer, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, had asked the group of about 75 employees, residents, and their families not to be shy about speaking their minds.
“Please, speak up and let the Department of Social Services know your feelings and your opinions,” Shaffer said.
For the better part of an hour they did just that, pleading with the state to keep the nursing home open.
Debra Levin has worked there since the early 1990s, she said.
“I’ve grown up here personally and professionally,” she said. “I’ve made friends here that are friends for life.”
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Another employee, Jean Gabriel, thanked Simonetti for literally helping to build the facility and going the extra mile for the people there.
“It’s very disheartening for me and the rest of us,” she said.
“I’m hoping that you will somehow take over this facility,” she told state officials. “There’s residents here that have been here for 40 years. This has been their home.”
Mary Goggi’s uncle, a holocaust survivor, has been at Marshall Lane for 30 years, she said during the hearing, begging state officials to keep it open while worrying that the effort was futile.
“This is his home. This is all he has left,” she said. “From the age of 19, he was in Dachau. Then he was in Fairfield Hills for what he saw in Dachau. Now he’s here. I don’t know where else (he could go).”
Derby’s George Geer said having his father nearby at Marshall Lane has made things easier on him and his family.
“This place has been needed,” he said. “Whatever you need to do, do what you can to keep this facility open and make things a lot easier for the people who live here.”
Marshall Lane’s residents agreed.
“I have to say that my experience here at Marshall Lane has been wonderful,” said Jean Anderson. “The nurses and all the employees have the right attitude. They greet you with a smile and the service is great. We never have to worry about anything, which is a big plus for somebody who’s in pain.”
When someone needs meds at 3 a.m., she said, they’re greeted with a smile. “That’s not always the way in other places.”
Janice Laliberte, of Milford, said Marshall Lane is “magnificent.”
“You can’t go to other homes and walk up and down the hall and speak to the owner,” she said.
“My mom was in the community trying to do it on her own. It didn’t go well,” Laliberte said. “Since she’s been here, her words to me: ‘I’ve never slept better. I feel like I’m on vacation. I love it here.’”
Greg Neagle, a New Haven resident, said his brother has lived at Marshall Lane for 37 years.
“Ninety people are going to lose their jobs, 100 residents are going to be moved for what? Because government is saying now that we want people in the community?” Neagle wondered, urging those in attendance to contact their representatives in Hartford. “If these people could be in the community they would have already been there. That doesn’t wash with me.”
It Has To Close
But close it must, Simonetti said, “because of the significant financial losses we’ve incurred over several years and because additional losses are expected in the future.”
The 120-bed facility is at only 80 percent occupancy, he said, as the state is trying to get people without intense care needs out of nursing homes and into home-based care programs.
And as costs go up, the state’s rate for paying Marshall Lane through Medicaid to take care of patients there has remained the same for seven years — $129 per day.
Of that, he said $21 goes back to the state in taxes. It’s a “particularly critical” problem at Marshall Lane, Simonetti said, because 88 percent of its residents receive only Medicaid benefits.
The family doesn’t have the money to upgrade Marshall Lane from an “intermediate care facility” to a “skilled nursing facility.”
Meanwhile, he said, no one wants to buy it.
Shaffer ended the hearing by saying oversees 230 nursing homes in the state.
“We don’t hear the kind of consensus of good, positive comments that I’ve heard today very often,” she said, telling residents and employees that their fate was not a foregone conclusion.
“Our whole reason for being is to be sure we give you voice to the people who need to hear what you have to say,” Shaffer said, promising to relay their concerns to state lawmakers from the area and members of the legislature’s aging committee.
State Sen. Joe Crisco attended the beginning of Thursday’s hearing.
In January Crisco proposed a bill in the state Senate that would require the state to increase the rates it pays nursing home owners through Medicaid.
“This is the beginning of the process,” Shaffer said, noting officials from her office would be visiting the home for at least the next two weeks to gather more information.