Easter Seals explores involvement in Foley nursing home

Three of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing

Three of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility's 195 patients were moved to other long-term care centers in Suffolk on March 28, 2013. Photo Credit: Bill Davis

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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.

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