Running a nursing home well is hard. The physical and mental health needs of patients are complex. Staffing is a giant challenge, particularly during the pandemic, and now after.

That said, Aperion Care, the nursing, rehab and memory care facility on Roosevelt Road, seems chronically mismanaged. As the Review reported two weeks ago, there was a rash of heroin overdoses at the facility last summer. Yes, heroin. Last week we reported on a perpetual series of fines and failed inspections by state and federal regulators over several years. The fines totaled almost $800,000.

Over the years, the Review has reported on deficiencies not only under Aperion ownership but also during the years when the facility carried the Pavilion moniker. 

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health is cautious in describing the details of its frequent investigations of the facility. But Mike Claffey, the spokesman, did acknowledge that the most serious penalty a nursing home faces for very serious violations is what is termed Immediate Jeopardy and involves the loss of access to Medicare and Medicare reimbursements from the federal government. And Aperion has had those critical payments shut off five times over the past three years.

Something is clearly not right. These residents are real people, genuine elders who are being harmed. These are employees who are working in traumatic situations.

We are grateful for the regulators. But we wonder how actual systemic change is accomplished in such a situation. It seems obvious that heavy fines alone are not adequate to the task.

Tri-part solution?

The partnership between the Park District of Forest Park and the West Suburban Special Recreation Association is a good one. Longtime allies in providing parks and rec related services to people with developmental or disability needs, the park district and WSSRA have just signed a pact that will bring them into a shared facility in the village.

The initial plan had been for a new construction project on park district owned land adjacent to the main park on Harrison Street. Subsequently, when District 91 public schools began to publicly consider the future of its largely shuttered Grant-White School on Randolph, both the park district and village government suggested ways they might use the up-to-date facility for community service.

At this moment, it appears the school district has stepped back a bit and delayed any choosing between the parks and the village. That’s fine. It is a major decision and the school board and administration need to be certain they are ready to lease the building into the foreseeable future. 

In the meantime, we’d suggest further conversations among the three parties about a fuller collaboration. The park district doesn’t have the funds to build on Harrison right now. The village has a fairly decrepit community center that needs notable upgrades. And the school district has an underutilized school building and an enrollment challenge.

Somewhere between the three there must be a citizen-focused solution.