Officials of Easter Seals, a national nonprofit philanthropy, toured the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility this week to explore becoming involved in the operation of the 264-bed long-term care complex in Yaphank.

John McGrath, executive director for advancement, was one of six Easter Seals New York officials who visited the five-story nursing home Tuesday, along with several Suffolk lawmakers and aides to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

"It's a wonderful facility for people who have a hard time having their needs met," said McGrath Wednesday in a telephone interview. "We are really hoping to find a way to help out and make a difference."

McGrath said his organization is still reviewing nursing home operations but understands "the county's [budget] constraints." He said he expected a decision in three or four weeks about whether to make a formal proposal to the county.

"They would be an ideal partner," said Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), who termed discussions with the organization as "very positive."

Legis. William Spencer (D-Huntington), chairman of the county legislature's Health Committee, was also encouraged by the group's interest. But he said that instead of taking over the entire operation, "The concern I have is that they may want to proceed cautiously, perhaps starting with one wing," Spencer said. McGrath acknowledged that such a transition often represents the "healthiest approach," but could not say what the organization may propose.

Easter Seals New York is the national organization's largest affiliate, covering a five-state region that includes Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Fairfield County, Conn. It has more than 3,600 employees and an annual budget of $110 million a year, McGrath said.

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Bellone has given lawmakers a chance to save the nursing home, but says the county cannot afford to continue its $8 million to $10 million annual subsidy. Bellone says he wants the nursing home issue resolved by the time he unveils his proposed 2013 budget in September.