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The Reno skyline as seen on Monday, July 17, 2017. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

State officials have ordered a Reno assisted living facility to close down for violating sanitary practices, raising concerns from family members who will need to find alternate housing solutions for vulnerable family members amid a pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued the license suspension against the Reno Valley Retirement Center on Aug. 21, citing health and sanitary violations, including food and fecal matter on floors, improperly stored medications and failure to complete a general physical examination annually.

“During the complaint investigation it was determined that residents were not safe at this facility and that the facility was engaging in practices detrimental to the health and safety of the residents as indicated by violations of Nevada Administrative Code (NAC),” the state’s license suspension memo said.

In an email to The Nevada Independent, Reno Valley Assisted Living Executive Director Audrey Liggins said she is unable to comment on the matter as it is an ongoing investigation and the facility has not received “definitive conclusions” from the state.

Though Liggins did not provide the number of residents staying at the facility, Caring.com, a website summarizing and reviewing retirement homes, noted that the Reno facility had a capacity of about 118 people.

The department’s public and behavioral health division appointed a temporary manager of the facility until residents are transferred to other licensed health care facilities or go home with family or legal guardians.

Liggins appealed the license suspension in a letter sent Monday, calling the citations false allegations. She emphasized that she and her staff improved cleanliness standards after a previous survey, were trying to meet every resident’s health and safety needs, and she said she was therefore “flummoxed” by the suspension.

“I and my team have put an enormous amount of effort into moving this building forward, making improvements to the exterior and upgrading interior spaces as our budget will allow. However, as we are partially dependent on Medicaid for income on a larger scale than other facilities ... we are not always able to make big-budget changes,” Liggins wrote. “Nonetheless, we do everything in our power to make living here comfortable and safe.”

Eric Nadler, whose 83-year-old father Harvey Nadler lives in the facility, said he is disappointed by the state’s decision to close the facility amid the pandemic with a short 30-day window to find alternative living options. 

“I just find it very disappointing to see the state taking this action at this time,” Nadler said during an interview with The Nevada Independent. “I understand the state has to look out for the welfare of the residents and that's fine, but their timing is quite suspect right now — it feels very insensitive in this environment.” 

Nadler lives in San Francisco, California, and is limited in his ability to help his father find alternate living options and physically pack his belongings and move. He said the whole process is “very disruptive” to his elderly father. 

Adding to his frustration, Nadler said the letter sent to family members announcing the closure did not disclose details about the state’s investigation and specific cleanliness concerns. The last issue his father shared with him was a bedbug outbreak in the facility about a year and a half ago. 

He clarified that he believes the state should take action if there are legitimate concerns for the health of residents, but wishes he had more than 30 days to find a new home for this father. 

In her letter to the state, facility director Liggins also voiced frustration over the Washoe County Health District’s inability to test residents and staff for COVID-19, despite multiple requests. So far, only one resident exhibited symptoms, and the facility went into lockdown until a health official could test the resident. The test came back negative, Liggins said.

Reno Valley Assisted Living has not had any reported cases of COVID-19, according to the state dashboard

After receiving the notice about the state’s directive from Liggins on Friday, Nadler said he “has no idea” about next steps for his father. He’s also concerned about the toll this process could take on his father’s health. 

“This is a real hardship and, potentially it's overly dramatic to say life-threatening, but at the end of the day, you're disrupting an 83-year-old who you can't have his family around him because of the pandemic and doesn't have the mental faculty to quickly find a new place for himself,” Nadler said. “Bad things happen in situations like this.” 

The state did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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