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Center’s future bright

A long period of uncertainty has come to a close in Monroe County.

For many months, there was considerable doubt about the future of the Monroe County Care Center, a 60-bed nursing facility in Woodsfield that had been owned and operated by the county for decades. In recent years, the center had become a financial burden to the county. At one point, a divided board of county commissioners voted 2-1 to close its doors for good.

The trouble started in November 2015, when an inspection revealed some areas of non-compliance with federal standards. The facility lost its certification to provide care for residents covered by Medicare and Medicaid. It took nearly a year and a half for the center to become recertified. Along the way, the county hired Leaderstat, a health care management and consulting firm, to oversee the process.

Eventually the commissioners, who remained divided on the issue, voted to sell the center. They inked an initial deal with Bryan Casey, president of Alternative Living Solutions, signing a letter of intent to make the sale for $500,000. County Auditor Pandora Neuhart questioned the wisdom of that decision, since she estimated the value of the building alone at $3.2 million. She also pointed out that commissioners had advanced more than $7 million in taxpayer money to the center to cover the cost of bills and salaries.

Jerusalem resident Carson McCurdy also believed the sale price was too low; he placed a bid of his own, offering $650,000. His belief that the center should have been made available to the public for bid also led him to file a lawsuit against the county. It was later dropped.

Through it all, a few residents and loyal staff members continued their routines at the center. Jessica Price was hired as administrator of the facility, and she took many steps to ensure it would operate without interruption and would continue to meet residents’ needs.

Although commissioners said they would like to get a better price for the facility, they also expressed an unwillingness to continue subsidizing it while searching for a buyer. For months they negotiated with McCurdy and Casey. Finally, on Feb. 7, they closed the sale with Casey as the buyer. The facility has since been renamed Stellar Care Center.

While the county may have taken a loss on the sale, we are relieved for the center’s staff, its residents and their families that the deal is done. New ownership and an increasing number of residents, as reported by Price, should lead to a period of relative stability, which is something families look for when placing a loved one in a long-term care setting. We look forward to reports of the center’s future success.

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