Special Reports

Judge orders takeover of Golden Years Rest Home

Larry Bruce Huff, who was found frozen in the snow after wandering away from Golden Years.  Photo provided by family.
Larry Bruce Huff, who was found frozen in the snow after wandering away from Golden Years. Photo provided by family.

FRANKFORT — A judge has ordered that a receiver take over a troubled personal care home in Letcher County that has been the subject of numerous state citations and federal and state criminal charges.

Letcher Circuit Court Judge Samuel Wright granted a temporary restraining order Thursday and appointed a receiver to oversee the finances and day-to-day operations of the troubled Jenkins home that is licensed to care for 44 residents. Wright issued the restraining order and appointed the receiver at the request of Attorney General Jack Conway's office.

In the order, Wright said a receiver was necessary because Golden Years Rest Home was unable to account for a "significant amount of personal funds of its residents" either because that money was misappropriated or because there were no records detailing what happened to some residents' money.

Golden Years conducts its business in a way that is "dangerous" or "hazardous" to the safety of the residents there, Wright found in his order.

The personal care home has been the subject of multiple state censures for its failure to protect residents. The Herald-Leader documented some of those problems in January, when it reported a December inspection by the state revealed unsanitary conditions and expired medications.

Allegations from that inspection by the Cabinet for Health and Family Service's Office of Inspector General, which oversees personal-care homes, included charges that residents were allowed to bathe only every other day because there were no clean towels and there had been no milk in a month because the bill hadn't been paid.

In January, Jonah Tackett, who was overseeing the day-to-day operations at Golden Years, told the Herald-Leader some of the allegations were misstated or overblown.

A personal-care home provides care for people who do not need full-time nursing home care but still need some assistance. Residents are often mentally challenged or mentally ill.

Other problems documented at Golden Years since 2007 include the conviction of former administrator James "Chum" Tackett, 69, on abuse charges; the death of Larry Bruce Huff, a resident who wandered away and froze to death; and an indictment of James Tackett in 2010 for allegedly taking $500,000 in state and federal payments to residents over four years.

James Tackett and the facility pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

In addition, James Tackett was indicted in May in federal court on similar charges for taking federal money from residents at Golden Years. On May 26, a London federal grand jury charged him with 19 counts of theft of government funds. He allegedly stole more than $92,000 out of nearly 400 federal checks between 2007 and 2009, according to the indictment.

Some of the money James Tackett allegedly stole included 34 federal stimulus checks worth a total of $8,500 that were mailed to residents, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.

On May 2, Golden Years received a citation from the cabinet indicating that a resident's life or safety had been endangered. A resident was taken to an emergency room for treatment of wrist injuries, according to the censure, after there was an altercation. Six residents told state investigators there was no staff member on the floor at the time of the fight.

But Jonah Tackett said at the time a staff person was on the floor that night but had stepped outside momentarily to sweep the porch.

There will be a full hearing on the future of Golden Years on June 23 in Letcher Circuit Court. Golden Years is a non-profit home. The attorney general's office was able to seek the restraining order and the appointment of a receiver to protect the assets of the organization because his office oversees charitable assets. The judge will determine at the June 23 hearing whether a permanent receiver is necessary.

Jonah Tackett, the grandson of James Tackett, did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment Thursday.

As part of the restraining order, neither current board members of Golden Years nor its staff can interfere with the work of the receiver, Linda Bell.

The cabinet received the judge's order late Thursday, spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said.

"We are assessing the situation. We will continue to monitor Golden Years' compliance with licensure regulations," said Midkiff.

Shelley Johnson, a spokeswoman for Conway's office, said that the attorney general does not want to shut down Golden Years.

"The goal is not to shut Golden Years down but to ensure the safety of the residents there and the long-term viability of that organization," Johnson said.

Conway, in a written statement, applauded Wright for issuing the order.

"Protecting Kentucky's elderly and vulnerable citizens is one of my top priorities as attorney general. It is also my duty to protect Kentucky taxpayers and preserve the state's charitable assets. For both of those reasons, my office sought a temporary restraining order and the appointment of a receiver," Conway said. "I am pleased that the court, after careful consideration, has agreed with the concerns we have outlined and taken quick action to protect the residents and interests of Golden Year's Rest Home."

In January, the state listed 82 free-standing personal-care homes and 90 that are attached to nursing homes. The homes provide meals and some assistance with medication and tasks of daily living. They receive $1,194 a month for each resident in the form of state and federal disability payments.

Too often, personal care homes have become the provider of last resort for those who have nowhere else to go, according to advocates for the disabled. Many residents are wards of the state and have no family members to look after them.

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