By Shelley Grieshop
NEW BREMEN -- A possible plan to downsize a Minster nursing home could leave 24 severely-handicapped residents without a home and/or appropriate care.
However, officials at Heritage Manor Nursing Home say the idea is in discussion stage only and there is no current plan of action.
A phase-out of the Intensive Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded (ICFMR) at the Minster nursing home could be devastating for the two dozen residents who reside there, say MR/DD officials. No other ICFMR facilities exist in Mercer or Auglaize counties, and they are scarce throughout the state.
The proposed phase-out became public after nursing home officials verbally informed the Auglaize County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD) board about the idea on May 10, MR/DD Superintendent Al Willis said. MR/DD officials are responsible for ensuring the residents' safety and rights and are contracted by the nursing home to provide day rehabilitation services to the handicapped adults who require 24-hour care.
Because the MR/DD is a county agency, Willis took his concerns to the Auglaize County Commissioners on May 30. "I had the responsibility to inform them of this," he said.
If the nursing home does phase out the special unit, the responsibility of providing appropriate housing and care for the residents could fall back on the county. That could mean asking the voters for money, Willis added.
When contacted by The Daily Standard on Tuesday, newly-appointed nursing home Administrator Jolynda Timmerman said she was frustrated the topic was made public, bringing undue distress on the two dozen residents involved.
"It was premature for him (Willis) to make statements about this," she said.
Timmerman did confirm, however, the nursing home was considering eliminating the ICFMR unit.
Willis said there are several state-mandated steps the nursing home must take if they go ahead with the phase-out plan, including notifying the MR/DD board in writing and putting a detailed plan of action on paper.
It's not clear how long the residents would have to find suitable housing before the unit is shut down. Willis said he has consulted an attorney who specializes in cases such as this to guide the MR/DD board.
"This is not something that's going to happen overnight," Willis said. "There are a lot of implications."
Willis said his biggest fear right now is not knowing.
"Waiting, that's the hardest part. Waiting to find out which direction they're heading," he said, assuring the residents and their families have nothing to worry about. "I know our people (the residents) will be protected, they will be taken care of."
Willis said there was a meeting set for June 12 between the MR/DD board and officials at Heritage Manor, but it was canceled when the facility changed directors nearly two weeks ago. The nursing home has verbally contacted MR/DD about the issue several times since May, he added.
Timmerman refrained from commenting further about the issue, but admits the idea is still being discussed.
"It could very well happen, but right now we're just exploring our options," she added.