JOHNSTOWN, Ohio — As the years went by, residents in this Licking County village began to notice a change in their local nursing home. The patients weren’t just elderly people anymore. Some were young. Some were loud. Some were angry.
“An amazing amount of cursing and rude, bad behavior,” was the impression of Scott Campbell, who visits his 87-year-old father almost daily at the Northview Senior Living Center.
It wasn’t just their imagination. In the past four years, Northview, operated by Zanesville-based Zandex Health Care Corp., has taken on an increasing number of residents with behavioral problems to fill its 58 beds. The shift has village residents worried about who might be living at the center, which sits across N. Main Street from a day-care center and a public library.
“I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen jump the fence,” said Ruth Ann Booher, whose mother lived at Northview until she died in June.
Last night, residents aired their concerns while Zandex defended itself at a meeting of the village’s planning and zoning commission. The village’s zoning inspector, Jim Blair, sent Northview notice on June 27 that by accepting patients with behavioral problems it was violating a permit that it had been granted in 1988 to expand the center.
Blair’s letter said the nursing home didn’t have “the proper zoning to conduct behavioral health treatment … and must be stopped.”
Zandex officials appealed on July 19. They argue that they’re not doing anything new and haven’t violated any zoning restrictions.
“We’re not sure where the (village) council is coming from,” said Lyle Clark, chief financial officer for Zandex. “There are very few facilities now that don’t take behavior residents. … We haven’t changed anything from the way we’re doing business.”
As its number of elderly patients has dwindled, Northview has begun taking in more residents with behavioral problems of all ages, Clark told the commission last night. In fact, a state investigation spurred by a complaint from Booher found that 22 of Northview’s 50 residents had behavioral issues — and the center hadn’t adequately trained its staff to care for those residents. Furthermore, it found that the center had reported 12 altercations among residents so far in 2012.
Zandex officials say they’ve responded to the state citation with increased training. But Johnstown residents aren’t convinced.
“It’s hard to get all the details,” said Booher, who discovered during one visit that her mother had a mark on her face and was missing several back teeth. She never learned what had happened.
Clouding the debate, too, are the memories of the short-lived escape of John “Jeff” Stroud, 53, from a nursing home in nearby Heath. He was staying there despite being charged with attempted murder in Scioto County. Stroud’s stay in Heath was a condition of his bond, but few people, including the city’s mayor and police chief, knew he was there.
No one outside of Northview knows who is staying there, either, although police haven’t reported any major problems with the center. Johnstown police have been called there five times in two years.
The commissioners are set to make a final decision in the matter at their Sept. 19 meeting.