Nursing home for inmates gets first-of-its-kind federal funding approval

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A Connecticut nursing home for paroled inmates has received funding approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which observers say is a positive sign for other states mulling similar arrangements for aging offenders.

The majority of the residents at 60 West in Rocky Hill, CT, are paroled prison inmates referred to the facility by the state Department of Correction and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Referrals are typically older or ailing inmates who qualify for skilled nursing care but don't pose a public safety risk, the Connecticut Health I-Team reported on Wednesday.

In December, 60 West became the first correctional facility to receive approval for nursing home funding from CMS, when the agency reversed its 2015 decision that the facility's residents failed to meet federal funding guidelines.

60 West has been accepting residents for more than three years, and while the facility's inception was rocky — neighbors and the town pushed back, saying the facility decreased their property values and violated zoning regulations — results have been positive, officials told C-HIT. No criminal incidents have been reported, and “there hasn't even been a workers' comp claim,” said Michael Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning.

That's a positive sign for other states, including Michigan, that have been eyeing their own skilled nursing setups for aging and costly inmates, Lawlor said. Other states, like Ohio, have chosen to release inmates into nursing homes alongside residents without prison records.

“What we are doing is being copied in other parts of the country,” he said. “It's this kind of innovation that helps reform the criminal justice system nationwide.”