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De Queen care facility losing residents and license

By Mary Hargrove

This article was published February 24, 1999 at 5:22 a.m.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services expects to have all residents removed from a De Queen residential care facility by the end of the week, despite repairs its owners have undertaken in an effort to retain their license.

"Their renovation may be a case of too little, too late," said Ray Hanley, director of the department's Medical Services Division. "I cannot see giving a license back when there was so much squalor, filth and deterioration over a long period of time."

State officials notified the owners that their license would be revoked March 19.

The De Queen facility, licensed for 29 residents, is owned by Joe Alexander of Camden and his mother, Avanell Looney of Sparkman. The agency notified them last week that the licenses for the De Queen center, plus their facility at Camden and a facility at Sparkman owned solely by Looney will be revoked for health and safety violations.

A fourth facility at DeWitt has until Friday to come into compliance with state standards. The centers primarily house the mentally ill.

The state attorney general's office seized Medicaid records from the Camden facility Monday. Last week, the attorney general's office collected records from the other three centers, according to Bill Gaddy, director of the office's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The attorney general could make a criminal referral or file a civil action to recoup funds or impose penalties if he deems such action warranted.

Hanley is still considering the fate of Rest Avenue Residential of England. That center's Medicaid personal care funds were cut off Monday after state field auditors took pictures of a filthy stove, dangling ceiling panels and laundry room floors turned black from standing water. That facility also houses the mentally ill.

"This is a more difficult call than the Alexander facilities, where the problems were overwhelming," Hanley said.

The Office of Long Term Care also will examine its own records, which incorrectly reflect that Rest Avenue is owned by Claude Sutterfield of Mountain View and the Compton family of Morrilton.

J.T. Compton said his family sold its 50 percent interest to Sutterfield Oct. 1, 1997.

"We do not own the property and have not since 1997," he said. "At the same time we sold our 50 percent interest in Westwynne Place in Wynne to Claude Sutterfield.''

Sutterfield confirmed that he is sole owner of the centers in England and Wynne.

Compton said the family still owns Sunchase Residential Care Center in Pine Bluff.

"It's a facility we are very proud of," he said.

An article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Monday listed the Comptons as owners in the England and Wynne centers based on information in the latest "Directory of Residential Care Facilities Ownership," published by the Office of Long Term Care. Mark Hemingway, director of that office, also told the paper Monday that the Comptons owned the facilities.

Documents sent to the Office of Long Term Care in June 1998 stated that Sutterfield was the sole owner.

"We missed that (new ownership information), and we absolutely are going to look at this directory," Hemingway said. "But first, the critical thing for us is to deal with is the residents and their care."

Hemingway is conducting an internal review to determine why his inspectors either ignored health and safety violations or failed to check back with facilities to see if corrections had been made.

Residential care facilities house residents who are elderly, mentally ill or mentally retarded but who are not so impaired as to require nursing home care.

Sutterfield is a member of the Health Services Commission, which issues permits of approval once it determines a need for these types of centers. The state then licenses the facilities.

Sutterfield and Alexander are board members of Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association, whose nine members own or operate residential care facilities.

Kent Schroeder, executive director of the residential care board, accompanied Sutterfield to Little Rock Tuesday as Sutterfield talked informally with regulators.

"I went to England, and the stuff in the pictures in the paper had all been corrected this morning," Schroeder said. "The repairs fit in the minor category and were not in the area where the residents live. They were things that needed to be fixed but it's not as if it was in the dining room.

"Rest Avenue is an old nursing home changed into a residential care facility, and Claude spent $25,000 in maintenance last year."

Schroeder said Rest Avenue averages 44 residents, each of whom pays $862 a month for room, board and personal care.

"He has to hire a staff and pay benefits and salary, do maintenance and pay for some medications out of that money," Schroeder said. "He lost $33,000 last year."

Hanley and Hemingway are poring over pictures collected by auditors last week during surprise visits to 20 facilities.

"We are continuing to check into conditions at these facilities," Hemingway said. "This is going to take a long time."

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