Summit County is exploring creating a group to examine the condition of nursing homes and advocate for change after a June report listed a Copley facility that is now closed among the worst in the nation.

Fairlawn Rehab and Nursing Center was one of five Ohio nursing homes on a list of 88 federal "Special Focus Facilities" nationwide with the most serious history of quality of care issues.

Owner Hillstone Healthcare notified the Ohio Department of Health in June that it would voluntarily close the facility Sept. 10.

But the last of the 64 residents at Fairlawn Rehab moved out by the Fourth of July, said Matt Reed, senior vice president of communications for Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities.

The agency worked with state officials to help residents find new facilities, Reed said.

"We had a daily presence there with our ombudsman to help to make sure people were given time and were able to make a choice of where they wanted to move to," said Reed, who said residents' families began looking for other facilities after the June 10 announcement.

Hillstone Healthcare did not return an email seeking comment.

There are more than 8,000 residents in Summit County nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other adult care facilities, according to Sam McCoy, senior vice president of elder rights for Direction Home.

Elsewhere in the county, Hudson Elms Nursing Home and Stow Glen Health Care Center are on a second federal list of facilities that are candidates for the worst-five list.

After the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com wrote about the quality-of-care issues that landed the Copley facility on the list, Summit County Council President Jeff Wilhite proposed creating the group, which would be called the Summit County Nursing Homes and Facilities Task Force.

“That just can't stand,” Wilhite said of the Copley facility being named among the worst in the country. “So we're going to create this task force and look into what we can do, what we can offer in terms of oversight and those types of things for individuals who are in these facilities.”

The group would examine the current functions, practices and environments of nursing homes and facilities in the county, as well as the regulatory structure and regulations, both state and federal, governing nursing homes and facilities and the role or authority of the county.

The group would also examine the financial and fiscal considerations of nursing homes and facilities in the county, as well as look at generally recognized best practices among high-performing nursing homes and facilities.

Additionally, the task force would consult with residents, facility owners and operators and industry specialists.

Members, appointed by the county executive and confirmed by county council, would include the county council president, county executive and representatives from the county’s Department of Job and Family Services, Summit County Common Pleas Court’s Probate Division, Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities and the Summit County Combined General Health District.

Other members would include an owner or operator of a nursing home or facility in the county, a county resident with experience as an employee of an Ohio nursing home or facility and a county resident who is a family member of someone currently in the care of a nursing home or facility in the county.

The task force could also include two ex-officio members that are representatives of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Ohio Department of Health.

Once members are appointed, they would deliberate for six months, presenting their findings and recommendations at the end to County Council and the county executive in a written report.

According to the legislation, the group would make recommendations for legislative actions and advocacy efforts on changes in the regulatory structure of the state and federal governments.

The legislation to create the task force received a first reading at county council’s Aug. 5 meeting. Council’s committee of the whole discussed it Monday; it will receive additional readings before members vote on it.

Wilhite said since he announced the idea for the task force in June, he’s been overwhelmed with phone calls and emails from people giving examples of loved ones who have been treated poorly in nursing homes and other facilities, to the point “I literally have to put them down because you just can't continue to read that kind of information,” he said.

“To think that anybody leaves this world in the conditions that some of these facilities have them in and the last experience they'd have on Earth is to be treated inhumane just is not something that I think this community wants to allow to continue,” he said.

 

Reporter Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this article. Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.