Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner said during the Aug. 21 village council meeting that the village planning and zoning commission should have a decision Sept. 19 on whether accepting patients with developmental disabilities violates the Northview Senior Living Center's conditional use permit.

Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner said during the Aug. 21 village council meeting that the village planning and zoning commission should have a decision Sept. 19 on whether accepting patients with developmental disabilities violates the Northview Senior Living Center's conditional use permit.

Lenner said Northview was granted a conditional-use permit in 1988 to expand its facility as a nursing home. After learning the senior center had begun accepting people with developmental disabilities, zoning inspector Jim Blair sent a letter to Northview on June 25, stating that accepting patients with developmental disabilities violates the permit.

The letter states, "The Village Codified Ordinance defines nursing home as 'means a home or facility for the care and treatment of babies, children, pensioners or elderly people.' Any activities such as the treatment and/or care of individuals that do not meet these criteria are a violation of this approval. ... Although the village recognizes the need for behavior health centers to serve a community need, the facility in which you operate does not have the proper zoning to conduct behavioral health treatment and/or activities and must be stopped."

Northview appealed the village's order during a Aug. 15 hearing in village council chambers. During the hearing, some residents and relatives of seniors living at Northview expressed concerns that the facility is unprepared to handle patients with behavioral challenges and that those patients could pose a safety threat to elderly Northview residents and to children who live near the facility.

Lenner said he is concerned about the possibility of an incident similar to the one in April, when a man facing assault and attempted-murder charges escaped from the Heath Nursing Care Center. He eluded police for 17 hours before being apprehended.

"The zoning inspector issued an order to the facility to stop caring for cognitively impaired residents who exhibit behavior symptoms," said Stoey Stout, vice president of Zandex Health Care, which operates Northview. "This is a typical diagnosis of many nursing-home residents."

Stout said Northview disagrees with the zoning inspector's interpretation of the law and provided its legal arguments supporting its position during the hearing, challenging the validity of the order.

"However, during that meeting, some of the town's residents voiced safety concerns regarding the Northview residents with cognitive impairments that may also exhibit behaviors," he said. "These concerns seemed to be fueled by an incident in Heath in which a convicted criminal eloped from a nursing home and caused alarm to city residents."

Stout said Northview does not have similar residents. He said he believes "rumor and innuendo" are causing much of the zoning committee members' concern, and Stout invited members to visit the facility, along with any other concerned community members.

"While we certainly appreciate the village of Johnstown's concern for the safety of town and facility residents, (we) can assure the community that (Northview) is committed to providing quality of care for all of its residents as it has for the last 48 years," he said.

Stout said all of the residents living at the facility are in need of nursing care and services. Many of the cognitively impaired residents who exhibit behaviors have suffered a severe trauma or illness that has caused their impairment, he said.

"We do not discriminate against individuals in need of care," he said. "Northview also does not refuse to admit an individual based on the individual's behaviors or care needs unless the facility is not capable of meeting the resident's care needs, which has not been the case in the present situation."

Stout said state and federal law prohibits any licensed and certified nursing home from complying with Blair's order to "cease and desist" caring for those residents and discharging them residents from their home.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure that the rights of its residents are not violated and that its residents receive the care they need and deserve," Stout said.