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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.
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.”