It’s been about two weeks since the Illinois Department of Public Health lifted the restrictions on Albany Care allowing the facility to accept new residents, Jacques Marquis, a community support specialist, told residents at the Fourth Ward meeting Tuesday.

The facility is also trying to be a good neighbor, Marquis said, and plans to construct an outdoor courtyard on the second floor above the main entrance so that smokers wouldn’t congregate in Grey Park, across the street from the building. Albany Care has already applied for a building permit, he said.

Albany Care on Maple Avenue north of Main Street. Credit: Provided

But Fourth Ward City Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma expressed frustration with the organization and IDPH for leaving the city out of the loop about Albany Care’s progress addressing the infractions noted by the state.

Albany Care was put on restricted status in the spring. The facility was not allowed to admit new patients until they had submitted a “plan of correction” approved by the state, said Nieuwsma.

While Nieuwsma said he knows this took several attempts before IDPH deemed the plan acceptable, he thinks he and the community should have been shown a copy of the correction plan.

Nieuwsma said he wants a good relationship with Albany Care’s management, its residents and the city, but without insight about ongoing monitoring, it’s problematic.

He has asked Mayor Daniel Biss, the city Corporation Counsel, and Candice Mitchell, the city’s regional long term care ombudsman as well as the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and state Rep. Robyn Gabel to work with him on this issue.

On the phone after the meeting talking about the specific changes that were made, Marquis was vague, saying only that “the state provided Albany Care a list of things they objected to and corrections they wanted. We followed their guidelines to address the infractions.”

When asked about the patients accepted as residents of Albany Care, such as those with criminal records, Marquis said “most if not all of our patients are accepted through the hospital system.” He could not say anything else, he said, due to health privacy laws.

In the interim, Marquis confirmed that residency numbers at Albany Care dropped from more than 400 to less than 230 while the restrictions were in place. The loss is due to natural attrition and patients moving.

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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  1. We need more transparency here, for the benefit of the neighborhood, the city, and the Albany Care residents who have been underserved by the facility in the past. When AC neglects its responsibilities, as they have demonstrably done in the past, the people who live and receive care there suffer the most. In turn, that suffering create problems for the surrounding community. Given this history, Albany Care should offer concrete details to the city in an effort to restore trust. It’s insufficient to simply claim good faith and announce plans for a smoking patio.

    Though the state is making decisions, those decisions have profound local effects: on Albany Care residents; the neighborhood; the utility of Grey Park; the city’s police, fire department and emergency health services who respond to frequent calls. These are city resources, not state. Albany Care’s residents have just as much a right as anyone to enjoy Grey Park, to benefit from a communal gathering space and time outdoors. But Albany Care’s operators have historically relied on the park as an extension of their facility. That’s a separate issue, which affects everyone’s ability to use and enjoy the park, with obvious consequences.

    I appreciate Councilman Nieuwsma’s reliably thoughtful advocacy for both the AC residents and the neighborhood, and the Roundtable’s continued reporting on these issues; without that reporting, we wouldn’t have much insight into the history of dysfunction within the facility. To be sure, these are complex, interlinked issues involving mental healthcare infrastructure (and lack thereof), local and state bureaucracies, and a documented record of past failure by the operators. Let’s please have more information on next steps, so that all Evanstonians, whether they live in or near Albany Care, can have some assurance that these are substantive changes rather than vague lip service designed to protect healthcare for profit business as usual.

  2. I agree with my Alderman, Jonathan Nieuwsma. The city and the community should be kept abreast of the issues and the status of addressing them. The whole reason this started was due to community out-cry. How does it make any sense to be left completely out of the correction process?

    It is hard not to be skeptical of the claims AC makes since so much of it is in a black box. Why did the population go down –by almost half– so suddenly after they were cited and put under a microscope? And, now as things cool off for the owners of Albany Care, how long until we are right back up to 400 and the same problems? I expect that by February they’ll be back at max w/ same problems.