State steps in after food runs short at 3 Vt. senior care homes

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Staff members at three Vermont senior care homes were digging into their own wallets to ensure residents didn't go hungry.

The state says the owner of three Pillsbury senior residential facilities in South Burlington and St. Albans failed to run the homes adequately, leading to utility shut-off notices and food shortages.

Our Dom Amato spoke with a woman whose mother lives at one of those residential care homes.

"I just don't understand how someone could buy a facility and let it fall apart like they have," Maribeth Thackara said.

Thackara's mother has lived at Pillsbury Manor South for more than two years. It's one of three Pillsbury facilities placed in receivership by the state this week.

"I believe in this facility, I love this facility, I love the care that she gets. My mom is happy," Thackara said.

Thackara says Pillsbury Manor South was running fairly well before new ownership took over last year.

"Since then, it's gone down," she said.

Staff shortages, utility shut-off notices after bills weren't paid, rent checks not cashed and deposits not refunded. Attorney General T.J. Donovan says staff members used their own money to purchase food after dealing with a shortage. Families and employees at the facilities were contacted the state.

"When you talk about running out of food, that's when we gotta step in to protect people and that's what we did," Donovan said.

The state fronted $17,000 to pay for the most recent food delivery. The Vermont attorney general's office got a temporary receiver approved to help manage and get the struggling facilities back on track.

One-hundred-and-two residents receiving in-home care and 69 seniors living independently throughout the three facilities in South Burlington and St. Albans have been impacted.

"Their safety, their health and their welfare are the state of Vermont's top priority," Donovan said.

Monica Hutt of the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living says it's uncommon to seek a receivership of a facility like this, but she knew after speaking with the owner, Andrew White of East Lake Capital Management, that the state had to step in.

"Through that contact, became convinced he wasn't able to address our concerns adequately on his own," Hutt said.

State officials would not elaborate on why White was not able to manage the homes properly. WCAX News tried calling the only number listed for the Texas-based East Lake Capital Management. A message told us, "You are not authorized to call this number."

Thackara knows how well the staff has treated her mother and hopes things can return to the way they once were.

"I just want it all to turn around and be a good place and a positive place to come," she said.

Donovan says East Lake Capital Management owns similar facilities around the country and two of those are also seeking receiverships. No criminal charges will be filed as of yet in Vermont as the state is focused on ensuring the residents receive proper care.