Goddard House nursing home to shut down

July 20, 2012
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(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) The Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

S. HUNTINGTON—The Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, an enormous nursing home at 201 S. Huntington Ave., will close forever in September.

The shutdown leaves about 100 seniors looking for new homes and puts a question mark on the future of the 2-acre site and its historic 1927 building. It’s just the latest major change on S. Huntington, where the Home for Little Wanderers next door is also shutting down this fall amid controversial plans for a luxury apartment project.

The closure, announced July 11 to insiders, will be “incredibly difficult for Goddard House patients, staff and employees,” said Emily Brower, a Goddard House board of trustees member, in a Gazette interview. “It’s a very good facility and has provided very high-quality care, and we have a very dedicated staff.”

But the 85-year-old facility was facing long-term challenges with its outdated building and funding and marketplace shifts away from long-term nursing home care, Brower said. To modernize the building would cost $10 million, require partial shutdowns over two years, and result in fewer rooms because the site offers little expansion space, she said.

“We decided that [upgrading the building] was not good stewardship of the Goddard House mission and assets,” Brower said. “In the end, it really wouldn’t be meeting where the trends in health care are going.”

Some family members of Goddard House patients are questioning the speed of the closure and the organization’s claim that it has not decided whether to sell the site.

Steven Arcanti, whose mother Josephine has lived there since April, said she is “anxious” about moving. The family is hearing that a lot of local homes are already at capacity and has yet to find a new one, he said.

“I just think the worst thing is how fast they’re doing this,” Arcanti said. “I just think there’s no way, in 60 days, they can do this in any responsible way.”

Goddard House’s assisted living facility in Brookline will remain in business. And the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to aid “underserved Boston elders,” intends to create some form of new programming as well.

“We have a group within the organization [that] is looking at, what are the community needs, what are the gaps, and how can we fill gaps?” Brower said.

Goddard House has not decided whether it will hold onto the property or sell it. Brower said the board of trustees specifically decided not to decide for now, so the organization would not be “distracted” during the complex shutdown. Goddard House does not have a pressing financial need to sell the property, she said.

The Home for Aged Women, the official name of the not-for-profit that operates as Goddard House, had assets and funds of $35.4 million as of its 2010 IRS filing, the most recent available in state records.

“We haven’t even gone down that road,” Brower said of the future of the property, which is valued by the City’s Assessing Department at about $6.1 million. “It’s certainly a lovely building, I think.”

Brower said she believes the ornate, four-and-a-half-story, brick and stone building was erected for Goddard House. It has no official historic protections or status, she said. Goddard House was founded in 1849 elsewhere in Boston.

Another former nursing home on S. Huntington is about to reopen as a boutique hotel, and gigantic luxury apartment buildings were recently proposed for the Home for Little Wanderers site and a former state-owned lot on the same street.

Goddard House is operated by Radius Management Services, which did not have immediate comment.

The shutdown decision was a surprise to many, as the facility is busy and regularly hosts community concerts and visits from elected officials. In May, Goddard House hosted a major “Eldercare Block” event celebrating itself and the other historic senior care facilities on S. Huntington: Mount Pleasant Home and Sherrill House.

The trustees decided this spring to shut down Goddard House, but kept the decision quiet for logistical reasons, Brower said. The facility’s 135 employees were notified on July 11. That same day, notices were mailed to residents and their families, and a 60-day shutdown plan was filed with the state Department of Public Health. The closure date is scheduled for Sept. 8.

Goddard House will assist residents in finding new places to live, possibly in other Jamaica Plain nursing homes, Brower said. It also will hold a job fair and other assistance efforts for the employees.

It is possible that Mount Pleasant, which is next door, and Sherrill House, two doors down the street, will take former Goddard House employees and patients. Both of those facilities rehabbed and expanded in recent years. Why couldn’t Goddard House do the same?

“That’s very interesting. We did talk about it,” Brower said. Goddard House faces the same challenges its neighbors had to overcome, such as many shared rooms with no private bathrooms; little space for rehab facilities; and a low amount of modern medical monitoring equipment. The old building lacks fire sprinklers, which must be installed under new federal rules by next year, a timeline that was one factor in the shutdown decision.

But Mount Pleasant and Sherrill House had their renovation projects under way several years ago. “Things have changed dramatically even in the last five years,” Brower said.

State and federal funding shifts toward at-home care and short-term rehab are making the classic nursing home model a challenge, Brower said. And Goddard House does not have the on-site expansion space its neighbors had, she said. Many of the residents receive Medicare insurance, which does not fully reimburse the facility for their care.

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