Judge rules nursing home residents with mental health, prison records can stay in the suburbs

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A Connecticut Superior Court judge has ruled a private nursing home providing skilled care to prison parolees and others does not violate a local zoning code.

The town of Rocky Hill claimed that the nursing home in question, 60 West, violates the town's zoning codes because it does not serve traditional nursing home patients. The facility serves a diverse population and was the first of its kind to receive approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for federal nursing home funding. Medicaid covers half the cost of care for qualified inmates, saving Connecticut about $5 million annually.

It's been cited by the Pew Trust and others as a model for states struggling to find ways to care for growing population of aging and sick inmates.

Many residents are on nursing home-release, a form of parole in which the state corrections department deems they have a terminal condition or disease and are not a danger to society.

But local officials have long said the facility should not be allowed to operate in a residential area without prior zoning approval.

In a decision released last week and reported by the Hartford Courant, Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr. ruled it conforms to traditional nursing home use.

“According to testimony and evidence, the 60 West operation was similar to any other nursing home,” Berger wrote. “While some patients may have had certain parole conditions, which were not known or enforced by nursing home employees, the testimony indicates that such a situation exists at all nursing homes ... Moreover [an employee] testified that 60 West does not admit dangerous individuals and has rejected some referrals based on safety concerns.”

The 95-bed nursing home opened in 2013 and also provides skilled care to mental health patients referred by the state Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services.

Neighbors testified that the presence of sex offenders had caused unease in the neighborhood, and real estate professionals said the facility caused property values to decline.

“To me, we proved the case,” former Rocky Hill Mayor Morris Borea told the Courant on Wednesday. “I really feel for the people who have had their lives disrupted that live next to the facility. The case was really about them ... I have recommended that the town consider an appeal and leave it to their new town attorneys to make that decision.”