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Originally published Friday, January 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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2 more boarding homes for mentally ill to close

The largest operator of supervised boarding homes for the mentally ill in King County is closing two of its homes, blaming a lack of adequate...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Community House boarding homes and sanctions at each

Brierwood 11020 Greenwood Ave. N., license revoked.

The Inn 1633 17th Ave., under stop-placement order; must make various improvements.

Hilltop Manor 1732 16th Ave., stop-placement order; various improvements.

Spring Manor 1103 16th Ave., stop-placement order; various improvements; $1,400 fine.

Summit Inn 1722 Summit Ave.; various improvements; $300 fine.

Firwood 10751 Second Ave. N.W., various improvements.

Source: State Department of Social and Health Services

The largest operator of supervised boarding homes for the mentally ill in King County is closing two of its homes, blaming a lack of adequate funding from the county.

The action follows serious sanctions from the state against all six of the operator's boarding homes.

The closures mean 102 mentally ill residents of The Inn and the Summit Inn on Capitol Hill will be moved out within the next several months.

The operator, Community House Mental Health Agency, contracts with the state and county to house mentally ill people on Medicaid.

The nonprofit agency recently closed another of its homes in the Greenwood neighborhood, Brierwood, after the state revoked that facility's license for conditions that ranged from a mattress-strewn yard to dirty carpets, furniture, windows and walls and a basement bedroom with worm-infested dirt.

The two boarding homes to close are leased from Pete Sikov, who in a letter this week to city and county officials decried the loss of beds for the chronically mentally ill.

The decision to close the facilities "is not a surprise," said Amnon Shoenfeld, director of King County's Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division. "We don't have a lot of time to find alternatives."

All six boarding homes provide "supervised living," a category that requires round-the-clock staffing.

In recent months, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has leveled a range of sanctions against Community House homes — including the license revocation — after finding various failures in the way the needs of residents are assessed and monitored and in the upkeep of the homes.

"This fall, we inspected all of them. We said, here's your road map. Fix them," said Joyce Stockwell, director of Residential Care Services, which is part of DSHS. "You tell us what you're doing to get there and stay there."

The two Capitol Hill homes will be closed because the lease is up soon and there aren't enough resources from the county "to provide the kind of care we want to deliver," said the group's lawyer, Carla DewBerry.

Brierwood, the Greenwood facility that's already closed, is being redeveloped as 23 units of low-income housing, hopefully for people with mental-health problems, she added.

Meanwhile, Community House has been reviewing the quality of its services and striving to improve, DewBerry said.

"They've already satisfied certain concerns" in the homes still open and are making other changes, she said. "Whatever happens they are going to provide high-quality care."

She insists some of the violations "are really just episodic" and don't represent a pattern.

Another Community House boarding home is Spring Manor on Capitol Hill, where a schizophrenic resident jumped to his death last October.

The suicide and poor conditions at Community House homes outraged the state's long-term-care ombudsman, Louise Ryan, who is an advocate for residents in long-term-care facilities.

At a news conference in November, Ryan called for Spring Manor's administrator to be investigated for criminal neglect. She also believes that until last year the state was doing a poor job of enforcing regulations governing these boarding homes.

State regulators disagree.

"I think we were always citing and taking some kind of enforcement action," said Stockwell of DSHS. "Sometimes you expect they would fix it and with your next several visits you determine they have not. That's when you take stronger enforcement."

Inspectors found some of the worst conditions at the home in Greenwood. State records show the fire marshal condemned the building's fire escape after finding weeds and grass growing from dry rot.

A 2006 flood in the basement was never reported to the state and the damage apparently was never cleaned up, according to state officials. And five people were living in the basement where inspectors found thick dirt on the floor, earthworms and water leaking into a bathroom and bedroom.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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