By Mary O’KEEFE
The California Attorney General announced this week that a Montrose assisted living facility along with its former administrator have been indicted on charges of felony abuse and neglect after the death of a 34-year-old patient.
“Skilled nursing facilities and other health care institutions should honor the trust that is placed in them or they will face consequences,” Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a prepared statement.
A Los Angeles County criminal grand jury handed down the indictments in June stating the actions of Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre and its former administrator Phyllis Paver caused the death of Charles Morrill.
Morrill had a history of attempting suicide when he was admitted into Verdugo Valley Nursing. At the time he had a long history of psychiatric illness, which Paver was aware of. The facility was not equipped to handle individuals with mental illness and the staff was not trained in this area of care giving, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Morrill had been admitted in January 2009. In early Febru
ary 2009, he attempted suicide by wheeling himself in his wheelchair into traffic; later that month in another suicide attempt, he put a fire extinguisher in his mouth and discharged it.
In response to the initial attempt, the facility developed a care plan to monitor him; however, there was no evidence at how often and who was doing the monitoring. Then in late February 2009, the resident died after again discharging a fire extinguisher in his mouth, according to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
The statewide consumer organization monitors nursing and assisted living homes and provides information on nursing home care.
In 2009, the California Department of Public Health issued an AA citation, the most severe penalty under state law for nursing home facilities. The center was fined $100,000.
“The [facility] appealed that fine and it was reduced to $45,000, which they paid,” said Ralph Montano, spokesman for California Department of Health.
If a facility receives two AA citations within a three-year period, the department begins the process of revoking the facility’s license.
The department will conduct surprise inspections to the facility as part of the citation.
Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing had several calls for service. Glendale Officer Matt Zakarian, Montrose community officer, continued to monitor the investigation and work with the state.