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Nursing Home for Parolees Receives Federal Funding, Expected to Be Model for Other States

It is a growing concern as the population of elderly prison inmates continues to rise: What happens to inmates who require more care than an infirmary at a standard correctional facility can give? The cost of treating inmates in prison, at specialized psychiatric facilities and at local hospitals is making the cost of long term care an expense that states are having a hard time managing. Federal funding is not given to prison inmates treated at any of these locations.

Enter facilities like 60 West, a combined nursing home and correctional facility in Rocky Hill, Connecticut that has become the first nursing home of its kind to be granted funding from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Several states hoping to receive federal funds for similar facilities are clearly pleased with the news and experts hope that the success of 60 West will spur other nursing homes to adopt the mentality that the elderly all deserve compassionate and federally-covered care, regardless of a prison record. Receiving federal funding for state-owned nursing homes would significantly ease the burden of covering long term care costs for prison inmates.

Previous Denial Due to Health and Safety Issues
60 West is a privately held nursing home that holds an established contract with the state of Connecticut. Approval for CMS funding was denied in 2015 before finally being approved in December 2016. According to CMS, 60 West previously placed inmates in a secured area of their facility who did not have medical conditions that merited such restrictive placement. To the regional director of Medicaid, that seemed inhumane and a violation of the policy that a medical condition should dictate the type of care a paroled inmate should receive when released from prison for medical reasons. To Connecticut lawmakers, 60 West’s previous use of secured areas to separate inmates from general nursing home residents was a sign that combining the two populations would be a public safety crisis.

According to the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) Director of Health Services, the inmates now residing at 60 West must be so medically compromised that they would be unable to harm another resident. Out of the current 72 residents, only 8 are not currently on parole from the DOC. Several residents are registered sex offenders.

Mixed Opinions
Despite the $5 million that CMS approval is expected to save the state, not all residents are thrilled with the existence or location of 60 West. Rocky Hill neighbors have filed a lawsuit claiming that the location in a quiet, suburban area has not only made them uneasy, but has devalued their property.

The administrator of 60 West has said that there has not been one criminal complaint in the 3.5 years since they opened their doors to inmates.

It’s also important to note that in 2015, 60 West attempted to seek sovereign immunity in the state of Connecticut. Essentially this would’ve made them immune to any sort of lawsuit, including those filed by loved ones of other 60 West residents, as well as a lawsuit arguing against the zoning violations of the facility. As we know from previous cases that have made the news, the Department of Corrections in many states is not without error in determining inmates pose no threat to public safety upon parole or release.  Hopefully 60 West will continue to serve as a model facility and safety events and criminal events will remain a non-issue.

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