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Following Allegations Of Neglect, State Of Colorado Sues Arvada Assisted Living Facility To Protect Residents' Safety

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) - The Almost Like Home assisted living center is facing 18 new citations and a rare legal action against its license from the state of Colorado, following CBS4 Investigates' continued reporting on allegations of abuse and neglect there. While it's the most aggressive action the state has taken against the facility thus far, some people continue to worry for the safety of the residents still living there.

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Almost Like Home (credit: CBS4)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment - or CDPHE - is trying to put conditions on Almost Like Home's license to operate, hoping that will make it a safer facility for residents who live there. The CDPHE says the facility is declining to voluntarily accept the agency's conditions, so the CDPHE is taking Almost Like Home to court.

This move to put conditions on a facility's license is a rare one. According to officials with CDPHE, it only happens about three to four times a year.

A hearing on the matter won't take place until March 2022, because of a backup in state courts, which worries families of some former residents who were allegedly mistreated there.

"I am absolutely concerned," said Melisa Goodard, whose mother, Judith McCurry, died a few months after being severely injured while living at Almost Like Home last November.

Judith McCurry's injuries in November 2020 (credit: Melisa Goodard)

Staff said McCurry fell out bed, but Goodard believes there may be more to the story.

"The doctor was shocked, I don't think he believed that for a minute," Goodard said. "He also told me you need to understand that this big of an injury is probably the beginning of the end for your mom, and that big of an injury cannot come from a two-foot roll off the bed, it just can't."

In addition to the litigation, the CDPHE has also cited Almost Like Home with 18 new citations - some of which pertain to McCurry's case.

The citation reports show the facility didn't make proper notifications about McCurry's fall, saying the facility didn't notify Goodard or her mother's external care providers about the fall. It was instead emergency responders who told Goodard about what happened.

The documents also show McCurry had fallen before - yet no fall interventions were put in place.

"It's not okay," Goodard said.

Judith McCurry before going to Almost Like Home (credit: Melisa Goodard)

Goodard also worried her mom may have been abused, saying her mom acted fearful of staff, and flinched when people touched her.

Citation reports show the facility failed to investigate Goodard's concerns, and contrary to their policy, didn't report anything to police.

"I actually already started looking at new homes to put her in, and the (facility's) director just kept steering me in another direction," Goodard said. "I just didn't move quick enough to get her out, and it's hard to know that I could have probably saved her from this trauma."

The 18 new citations against Almost Like Home aren't just about Goodard's mom.

They also detail concerns the facility is short-staffed, and that staff are not properly trained, fitting what former employees have been telling CBS4 Investigates for months.

"There is no excuse for not having sufficiently trained staff in sufficient numbers," said the CDPHE's Director of the Health Facilities Division, Randy Kuykendall. "If a facility can't do that, the situation needs to be remedied, and we're certainly there to ensure that happens."

He says Almost Like Home already paid the maximum allowed $2,000 fine for the citations, and submitted a plan to correct the issues.

"The plan of correction that we have accepted certainly spoke to, very clearly, their intention to comply with all of the minimum training standards that a facility has," Kuykendall said.

Asked if he knew whether the facility currently has enough staff, Kuykendall said, "in terms of whether they have been able to add staff or not or remove residents, I really can't speak to that, we wouldn't know that on a day to day basis."

Former employees of the facility tell CBS4 Investigates the lack of staff, and inadequate staff training, has caused major problems for other residents in recent months.

Julia Gutierrez (credit: Linda Gonzalez)

Sylvia Torralba's mom, Julia Gutierrez, was neglected at Almost Like Home back in October 2020, according to the state health department. Public records show staff at the facility left her mother in a recliner for up to 24 hours at a time – causing her to develop a severe bedsore that, according to the state, staff failed to properly treat in a timely fashion.

Gutierrez died at home days later. The facility was fined $1,000.

One former employee told CBS4 Investigates that because of the lack of training and accountability, and understaffing issues, residents like Gutierrez were not properly fed, changed or turned.

"I think a lot of deaths could have been prevented, and I think a lot of residents could have been more cared for and had a prolonged life," the former employee said.

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Julia Gutierrez on hospice at her daughter's home (credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

Given the court hearing on the CDPHE's proposed license conditions won't take place until March 2022, CBS4 Investigates asked Kuykendall if he's concerned about the residents who are still living at the facility.

"Absolutely, Kati, we are, that is the thing that we worry about the most," Kuykendall answered. "That's why we continually do unannounced visits on a regular basis... these are the most vulnerable citizens here in Colorado, and these are the people that our division is dedicated to protect."

That's something Goodard is happy to hear.

"I'm sure there's laws and procedures out there I'm not aware of, but I personally would have liked to see them shut down the day after my mom's accident," Goodard said. "The fact that it's seven months until the hearing... I wish it could be quicker, but if they are tied by the law, then I understand it."

Following CBS4 Investigates' reporting of the concerns at Almost Like Home, a state senator is looking to propose legislative changes in the upcoming session that could better hold assisted living facilities accountable. Learn more about her efforts here.

In the meantime, Goodard hopes families with loved ones in any assisted living center will take a close look at the conditions in which their loved ones are living.

"Is their personality changing, are they all of a sudden scared and withdrawn instead of the person they've been, even if they can't speak, they're going to tell you," Goodard said. "Absolutely report it to the state, we have to do better."

Almost Like Home has not responded to calls and emails for comment.


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