Pasadena assisted living facility abruptly closed by emergency order days before Thanksgiving

PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) -- Residents of the Pine Tree Assisted Living facility in Pasadena have two days to relocate, according to a family member of a resident.

The sudden move comes after an abrupt closure by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

"When you evict someone from an apartment they get at least a 30-day notice. These people got nothing. Nothing. And you're talking about patients with all kinds of mental disorders," said Patricia Miller.

Miller said she found out when her 62-year-old brother, David, called her frantically after learning the news himself.

"He said, 'They're kicking us all out. We got to move!'" said Miller who lives in a different part of the state.

On Tuesday afternoon, the parking lot of the facility was filled with health insurance agents from United Healthcare handing out moving boxes. At least two people representing other assisted living facilities were on-site interviewing residents, while state agents from HHSC were busy collecting paperwork, files and organizing medication.

"If the state feels that the licensing is in jeopardy, in any way shape or form, they have the right to come in and say 'This is what we're going to do,'" said Dena Schoolcraft, an employee of the company that owns Pine Tree.

Schoolcraft said she flew in from a different facility in Montana to help handle the closure.

"We've been dealing with the state for a couple of months now trying to get some things in place and trying to get some things taken care of that they felt were major concerns," said Schoolcraft, but adds the closure was a shock.

She said 111 residents in their assisted care program called "The Lodge" will be forced to move by Thanksgiving. Another 13 residents in their memory care facility called "The Cottage" are able to stay.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission sent ABC13 a statement saying in part:

HHSC issued an order for an emergency closure of this facility on Nov. 22 due to serious health and safety concerns. HHSC does not take lightly any decision to close a facility and does so only in situations that pose an immediate risk to residents. HHSC has staff on-site to assist the 85 residents at this facility in finding an alternative setting of their choice that can fully meet their needs.

During the closure process, HHSC staff stay on-site to ensure residents are safe while we find other appropriate facilities for them to relocate to; we may also dispatch nurses, nutritionists, social workers and pharmacists to continue providing care as we work with residents (and their guardians) to find an appropriate facility for them.

HHSC said there is a discrepancy between the number of residents they counted in the facility's census and the number of Pine Tree staff reported to ABC13.

The health and safety concerns cited by HHSC include a broken fire panel and rats. Schoolcraft said HHSC has been on-site every day for the last three weeks.

"Some of the major issues are construction issues, there were some cleaning issues, there were some rodent issues. We had everything in place to get this all eradicated and taken care of. We had the crews coming in, but it wasn't fast enough," said Schoolcraft.

She said her staff has been emotional about the abrupt closure, but a neighbor across the street says she is happy to see the intervention.

"Just, by the way that I would see them, you could tell that they weren't being taken care of," said the neighbor who did not want to disclose her name. "There were times people were left outside for hours in wheelchairs, (in the) hot scorching sun."

She said she's even given residents shampoo.

HHSC says they are working to relocate the residents, but Miller worries it won't be easy to find housing for the low-income residents like her brother who have mental disabilities.

"It's not like a nursing home where he has physical medical disabilities, these people have mental disabilities," she said. "He was in a car accident years ago which left him with brain damage. So he has short-term memory loss. He has been diagnosed as a manic depressive schizophrenic. Any kind of routine change disrupts his life, he doesn't deal well with change. He doesn't remember things that happened yesterday."

All of this is happening just two days before a major holiday.

"I can't call a moving company on Thanksgiving and say, 'I need you to move him, but I don't know where I'm going to move him,'" said Miller.

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