Decisions of which nursing homes to close and which to keep open were made in New York City board rooms, during site visits and after much data analysis.

All that investigation led a state commission to order the closure of Niagara County’s public nursing home and rehabilitation center.

But the people of Mount View Health Facility can’t understand it.

“This is just a building to the people but this is our home,” said former Niagara Falls resident Maureen Dunlap, who moved into the Lockport facility 11 months ago.

“It takes a lot to sell everything in your apartment and come into one of these places,” Dunlap said with a crack in her voice. “But it’s become home.”

The news broke late last week that the county is moving forward with a state-mandated closure process.

If the Legislature grants its approval Tuesday, the county will terminate a $2.4 million purchase agreement with a private firm and will send its closure plan to Albany.

Under orders from the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, the state plans to revoke Mount View’s operating license once all the residents have found new homes, a process the state believes can be completed by June 30, 2008.

The county has long wanted out of the nursing home business, making the future of Mount View uncertain for at least the last 20 years.

There were once plans to turn it into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Other plans called for building “cottages” on the site, which would accomplish two goals: Rehabilitation of the aging facility and an increase in the rate the county is reimbursed by the state for Medicaid patients. That reimbursement rate hasn’t changed since the mid-1980s.

The staff even has trouble believing the closure will actually happen.

“It’s been happening here for so many years, so many times, you won’t believe it until they shut the doors,” said Social Worker Karen Magee, who has worked at the facility for 25 years.

In 2004, the county decided to sell to Senior Associates, a Williamsville firm.

That agreement must be canceled now because the county no longer has a nursing home to sell.

The nursing home’s alert residents are aware of the situation, according to Mount View employees.

But very few of them have figured out where they’ll go.

“We’re all just dragging our feet because we don’t want this place to close,” Dunlap said.

It’s clear there hasn’t been much communication with the families from the state or the county.

Some family members are under the impression that their loved ones can stay in the home once it becomes an assisted living facility, an option that is not on the table, as those assisted living beds could be built in places other than the Mount View campus.

Social workers at Mount View will have to step in and help those residents who don’t have family members who can help them find another nursing home.

Magee estimates 10 percent of the population will be difficult to place, mostly because of behavioral problems.

Private homes aren’t required to accept all patients.

The closest county homes are in Erie and Orleans counties.

So far one resident has gone to another nursing home and five others have applied for transfers but Mount View will continue accepting residents until the state tells it to stop.

Last week, the facility actually welcomed two new residents, bringing the total number of patients to 128.

At the home’s annual picnic last week, the same sentiment was repeated over and over: The residents like Mount View and don’t want to leave.

“They have everything I can’t give her,” said Niagara Falls resident Jennifer LaMoy, speaking about her grandmother, Rose Curry. “I would never want her anyplace but here.”

Another Niagara Falls transplant, Marjorie Bovanizer, moved in five months ago.

Bovanizer knows the location 25 miles away from her family cuts down on her visitors but she likes the care she receives at Mount View.

“I really feel there is a definitive need for this place in this county,” she said.

In addition to ordering the closing of the nursing home, the state commission, known as the Berger Commission, is recommending the county build an assisted living facility.

The county is rejecting the second directive. County lawmakers are hoping another entity will want to build an assisted living facility instead. So far, at least three other entities have expressed interest.

In the meantime, Dunlap doesn’t know where she’ll go.

“It’s been very stressful this week for all of us,” she said. “The staff has handled it well and tried to comfort us. We’re all sticking together like a big family. It’s brought us all closer.”

Contact reporter Jill Terreri

at 282-2311, ext. 2250.

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