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Albany Care wants to be a better neighbor and has committed to making some changes, Evanston City Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma said Wednesday, November 3 at a meeting of Fourth Ward residents.

Albany Care, a Specialized Mental Health and Rehabilitation Facility at 901 Maple Avenue, has been drawing complaints from neighbors living nearby who say they’re concerned about the level of care the facility’s residents receive and worry about an uptick in unsanitary and aggressive behavior

The facility will tighten up admission requirements and share a weekly progress report with city officials, Nieuwsma said at the meeting. He added that the facility is also putting a lot of faith in its new executive director, who started October 25. 

Additionally, the city installed a port-a-potty in Grey Park, right outside Albany Care, on a trial basis. It’s hoped the portable toilet will prevent instances of public defecation and urination that neighbors have noted, but if it doesn’t resolve these issues, or if it creates new ones, it will be removed, Niewusma said.

Last month, Albany Care also released a plan of engagement that details more commitments the facility will make, including hiring a new assistant executive director and covering the cost of some damages to local businesses said to have been caused by former facility residents. 

Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma leads a Fourth Ward meeting on November 3. (Photo by Adina Keeling)

Nieuwsma has been organizing meetings for several months to address the concerns residents have raised. In addition to neighbors, the recent Fourth Ward meeting was attended by Mayor Daniel Biss, Evanston Police Department Sergeant Chelsea Brown, Director of the Health and Human Services Department Ike Ogbo and Albany Care consultant Megan Marker. 

At the meeting, Ogbo said that the city recently conducted two inspections of Albany Care. These inspections occurred October 29 and included a property standards inspection conducted by the Community Development Department and a long-term care environmental inspection conducted by Evanston Health and Human Service staff. 

The property standard inspectors looked into the building’s condition and checked for violations in building codes and permits. The inspectors found some minor violations, mostly involving torn window screens, broken ceiling tiles and walls in need of repainting, according to the inspection report, which was shared with the RoundTable. A couple of other violations included a running faucet, a loose handrail and a bedbug infestation in one room, the inspection report said. 

The long-term care environmental inspection examined the facility’s meal planning, housekeeping, laundry services, plumbing system, nursing unit, etc. and found Albany Care compliant in all areas except for maintenance, the inspection report said. Similar to the previous inspection, this inspection showed the facility needs to scrape and repaint some walls, replace bathroom tiles and repair several cracks, the report said. 

Due to the violations found in the two inspections, the city will conduct a reinspection in December. The facility is also due for an Illinois Department of Public Health inspection, though it is unclear when this inspection will occur. 

During a Q&A session, a community member asked how Albany Care was able to pass the City of Evanston inspections when so many neighbors complain about the facility. Maybe the inspections aren’t rigorous enough, the person suggested. 

In response, Mayor Biss agreed but stated that the state Department of Public Health inspection will be much more rigorous and added the state has more power over the facility than the City of Evanston. He encouraged community members to call State Representative Robyn Gabel’s office.

Sgt. Brown also spoke at the meeting, reminding neighbors that calling 911 doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will be arrested or charged. But in a dangerous situation, “please call 911,” she said.

When residents at Albany Care are getting the care they deserve, the impact on the other people in the neighborhood will be minimized, Nieuwsma said to the RoundTable. 

“Bottom line is that they need to take care of the people they’re in charge of,” he said. “Those folks are my constituents too.”  

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

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  1. Albany Care has a serious drug problem inside the facility. Even though Marijuana is legal in Illinois, it’s illegal inside a facility like Albany Care.

    There’s absolutely no consequences with a consumer smoking THC. If a Consumer is suspected of intoxication, they take a breathylizer. If they fail; they are usually sent to a hospital to safely detox.

    There’s also Crack use and heroin use inside the facility. Staff seems to Never intervene. It’s obvious when a person is under the above drugs.

    What if someone over doses and dies? The Consumers are afraid of the drug use. They are afraid of their safety. It’s the staff’s responsibility to avoid this type of behavior.

    The front desk rarely does a search when Consumers return with bags of ect. They are racial profiling Consumers. They only search certain individuals. They continue to make racial comments to individuals and yells at Consumers. They also have hung up in individuals who call them.

    I witnessed a group of Consumers smoking THC in one of the dayrooms. A staff member saw this and didn’t do anything.

    They have improved the issue with enough nurses to be on staff. They need to intervene and stop the illegal use of drugs in the facility.

    In my humble opinion and others; drug users need to be held accountable of their actions.

  2. Prospects for enhancing the quality and viability of Evanston will require the totality of enlightenment, mutuality, and geniune understanding of all who care, to prioritize the needs of us, not just a privileged minority. This means a social recognition of the fundamental rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. What is the root cause of this seeming divisiveness about better neighborhoods, when it is simply a matter of priority, not scarcity? I say yes to all that makes Evanston and its valuable aesthetic heritage great, but let’s make it a beacon for all as we are all one, and not a preserve of priviledge for those who are only the benefactors, of the ignorance that systemically debases and devalues people with disabilities in Evanston.

  3. I’ve written many comments regarding Albany Care. There Continues to be a shortage of Staff; especially Nurses/MHPS.

    Yesterday 1/12/22; I waited in line for my morning Medication. Again I was unable to receive my Medication.

    I’m dually diagnosed. Albany Care is “supposed” to support a Consumer who is dually diagnosed.

    In the morning; I take medication for my Bipolar. Yesterday morning; I NEVER received my morning Medication.

    I take medication also to help stop the “cravings” for alcohol.
    The Medication works!

    Yesterday; they couldn’t find the two breathalyzers. I am required to take a test before they administer my medication. I always take the test before Medication.

    I have bought my own “tubes” for the tests. I shouldn’t have to use my money to get the proper care I deserve.

    I told staff; that I will purchase my “own” breathalyzer. They didn’t have anything to say.

    Good news. The Nurse on second shift works on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She’s extremely professional and has “empathy” for the Consumers.

    Albany Care has implemented a morning AA Meeting. I attend and help setup the meeting. They are daily at 9:15AM.

    Some of the nurses they have “hired”; don’t know how to use a Breathalyzer. I had to show two Nurses how to use the Breathalyzer.

    In addition to; when there’s no Breathalyzer available.. The nurses write in my medical records that I refused the Medication.

    That’s why I am purchasing my own breathalyzer. That way there should be absolutely no Excuses from the staff.

    I will never be reimbursed for my purchases. But, getting my medication on a timely manner is the upmost concern for me. Having my own breathalyzer, I can take the test at the nurses station.

    I have a plethora of Consumers
    who are Concerned about themselves not getting the their Medication on time! There’s a “window” in time to administer the Medication. If it’s outside the “time frame”. It could have serious side effects.

  4. They are owned by the same people as Greenwood Care on Chicago ave. That facility has major problems also and neighbors are complaining, Both are understaffed and the residents are being neglected. I should know I used to live at both places.

  5. I posted a summary of what has been going on at Albany Care on 11/6/21. I suggested to Adminstration and Staff to implement a way to reduce the Illegal Drug Activity Inside and Outside the facility. I suggested that they do random drug test to residents who appear to be under the influence of drugs. It’s a simple test. The resident urinates in a cup. Within about five minutes; the results are in. Albany Care tests for people who appear to be Intoxicated by the use of a Breathalyzer. In my humble opinion; what’s the excuse for Albany Care not implementing tests to residents who are doing Illegal Drug Activity Inside the facility. It’s Albany Care policy that no mind altering substance be allowed to be inside this facility. The only acception to this policy is medication prescribed by a licensed Doctor or Psychiatrist.
    I witnessed on Sunday two residents smoking THC (Marijuana) in the Day Room. A Staff member saw this and did absolutely nothing. I suggested months ago to implement a drug test for Illegal Drug Activity. Absolutely nothing has transpired since then to rectify this situation. Albany Care Staff appear that this is not an issue for the quality of life inside this facility. I’m posting their phone number: (847) 475-4000. Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this issue.

    1. Peter, thank you for your input as an insider at Albany Care. Very interesting and I hope they listen to your concerns and correct them.

  6. I’m heartened to hear that our Alderman sees the residents at AC as his constituents. I’m hopeful that the ire residents feel will be directed at the folks who own and run the facility and not the residents, who need care, not scorn.

    1. The Albany Care Administration and Staff are totally unprofessional. In my humble opinion; they treat some Consumers with respect (The People Doing Illegal Drugs inside this facility). The Consumers who are following the rules are treated with utter disrespect. This is totally Unacceptable. Consumers here deserve the support and help to get better service. It’s the responsibility of the staff and Administration to correct the Consumers Grievance and Complaints. So far, I have seen and witnessed absolutely no changes. Everyday this facility is getting much worse. The Front Desk randomly checks the Consumers when they bring in bags from Main Foods, Delta Foods, Walgreens, Jewel Osco, Trader Joe’s, ECT. They absolutely never check the Consumers who are doing the Illegal Drug Activity. It’s obvious that they don’t care. It’s also obvious to me and a Plethora of Consumers that when a Consumer is found with Illegal Drugs; Staff puts them on Restriction for a few days and then lets them back into Society and allows them to continue to reside at Albany Care. My question to Albany Care; why would you allow this to continue? Albany Care is funded by the State and Federal sources. In my humble opinion; if a Consumer is found with Illegal Drugs inside the facility.. They should be Discharged Immediately. These type of Consumers are jepodizing the SAFETY and HOUSING for the Consumers who are not committing Criminal Behavior. Everyday I walk in the facility I constantly smell Marijuana. I’ve witnessed Staff just walk by and Absolutely do nothing. Also smoking is a Fire Hazard. The Evanston Fire Department are called multiple times a week for a fire alarm going off. The reason why I post these updates is because I am a concerned Consumer and I am ADVOCATING for the Consumers who are Fed Up with this type of Activity. Albany Care’s Direct Phone number (847) 475-4000

  7. Albany Care is seriously lacking support for the Consumers. There have been several Grievance and Complaint forms that have been submitted to the Administration and Staff. Not a single one has been rectified. In addition to the Consumers Safety; Albany Care allows people to be allowed to reside at this facility. Administration allows people who are on Probation or Parole reside at Albany Care. Consumers are extremely concerned about this issue. How does allowing Criminals in an SMRH benefit the residents? There’s been no protocol for Illegal Drug Activity Inside the Facility. Consumers are extremely concerned about this. Albany Care has the responsibility to reduce the drug activity. Administration allows Consumers who have physically hurt another resident. The “attacker” goes to the hospital for a few days. Once discharged from the hospital, Albany Care readmits the resident. How does this benefit the residents? It’s a Safety issue. In addition to the above serious issues; residents have “stolen” from local businesses. I was informed that the business owners are afraid of reporting this to the proper authorities. Since Albany Care is located extremely close to some of the businesses involved in this Criminal Behavior the business owners are afraid of Retaliation from Albany Care residents towards them and their business. This is totally Unacceptable. Albany Care is also lacking in Supportive Groups for the Consumers. Two years ago Albany Care implemented positive and helpful groups for the residents. I have been a resident for almost three years. Unfortunately, in the past 6 months I have witnessed a Serious lack of professionalism in the facility from the staff. Consumers are afraid to voice their concerns to Adminstrations and Staff. They feel that if they do; retaliation from Staff could occur. I totally empathize with the community. There’s absolutely no excuse for the behavior committed by the residents. In my humble opinion; if Albany Care could start to come up with positive solutions to these issues. It would definitely improve the safety and support that the Consumers deserve. It would also reduce crime and inappropriate behavior in the Community.

    1. Thanks to Mr. Basquin for his detailed comment as a resident at this facility. I wrote a comment to the last article in the Roundtable about problems there that the community is concerned about, and I will repeat that this type of facility, large buildings filled w chronically mental ill people with significant needs, is totally outmoded. Current best practice is to house such folks in smaller, more intimate settings that deliver regular supportive services and which are much more easily managed and supervised.
      Given this problem, it will be difficult for Albany Care to improve significantly. It is worth trying to do so through better staffing, more supportive services (regular groups that address such issues as appropriate self care, appropriate community behavior, etc, and also respond to residents’ complaints/problems w issues that arise in the building), and a more serious commitment to maintaining the environment itself.
      But the ultimate goal should be closing such large buildings, because by their very nature they are antithetical to supportive housing to the chronically mentally ill.