State agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are now leading the criminal investigation into Brookhaven Manor, a Kingsport nursing home with a history of problems.

“We made a request that they get involved in this case,” Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Mike Filetti said. “They’ve done some preliminary things as far as interviews and things of that nature and then they’ll go full force.”

Wednesday marks a month since the Tennessee Department of Health announced Brookhaven Manor had to stop admitting new patients. That indefinite suspension followed an inspection that raised serious questions about the discharge of a patient.

State records show the nursing home inappropriately discharged a patient earlier this year, dropping him off at a hotel. Inspection records reveal Brookhaven Manor paid for a three-night stay, which included breakfast, but did not ensure he had money or the ability to eat other meals and initially failed to make sure he had access to his prescriptions. The inspection found the nursing home placed the patient in an environment that was detrimental to his health, safety and welfare.

“He is now in a safe facility,” Filetti said.

He said the TBI is waiting for Adult Protective Services to finish its portion of the investigation before moving forward with its full criminal review.

Brookhaven Manor is one of only 100 or so nursing homes nationwide named a Special Focus Facility with the purpose of increased oversight and improved care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services designated Brookhaven Manor a Special Focus Facility 13 months ago, after another inspection found the nursing home failed to prevent patient abuse and didn’t always properly report and investigate alleged abuse in late 2016. As of April, Brookhaven Manor remained one of just a few dozen special focus facilities that have still not improved, according to federal records.

While the criminal investigation is ongoing, Brookhaven Manor reports it remains committed to resident safety and continues to cooperate with all agencies involved, including the Tennessee Department of Health. The nursing home’s administrator told us inspectors returned to the facility last week and acknowledged substantial improvements and substantial compliance.

In a statement, Sam Justus said he inherited the situation when he took over in March, but said the nursing home is working with all agencies to ensure safe handling of discharges.

“As of last week our plan of correction was accepted by the State of Tennessee and we are back in substantial compliance,” Justus said. “The surveying agency has spent considerable time in our facility reviewing our plan and our operations and is in agreement that the facility is in substantial compliance. We expect to receive our letter from CMS this week to that regard.”

Justus said while Brookhaven Manor’s overall one out of five-star federal rating will remain low due to the recent survey, the facility’s quality rating increased to four out of five stars this month.

“Historically, it can take up to three years to see a change in overall star rating after a difficult survey,” Justus said. “In addition, we are putting an amazing workforce team together that are caring, compassionate, and professional. We have already noticed the positive impact with our residents, family members, and our community neighbors.”

A Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson said Tuesday new admissions are still suspended. Brookhaven Manor expects that to change any day, according to Justus.

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