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Despite repeated violations, home for mentally ill remains open & owners rake in taxpayer money

Posted at 5:34 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 21:11:32-05

New pictures taken inside a state-licensed home for people with severe mental health issues show unsanitary and dangerous conditions still persist there, even after years of complaints and a recent News 5 investigation.

"There is no reason after I watched your report that the place is still open," said Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio, in reference to News 5's October 27th story. "None."

Care Circle, located on E. 89th St., is an adult care facility licensed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Its owners, Jeff and Juahmea Rivers, rake in hundreds of thousands of state and federal tax dollars from rent payments each year.

Disability Rights Ohio, a non-profit that acts as the state's protection arm for people with disabilities, has made six unannounced visits to Care Circle in the last 18 months to investigate conditions inside. The organization said their latest photos, taken less than two weeks ago, show no improvement from any previous visits. After each visit, they report their findings back to the state.

"I was sickened that the severely mentally disabled that have been dealt a pretty tough hand in the first place would be allowed to live in these conditions," added Russell.

Once again, the pictures show bugs, filth and stains throughout Care Circle's three homes at the E. 89th St. location.

"I'm begging for them [the state] to do something," said Russell.

The state has declined our repeated requests for an interview. But in a statement issued Monday, Eric Wandersleben, a spokesperson, said this:

"We continue to take any potential violations seriously, and that is why we remain actively engaged in the license revocation process. Care Circle, a private entity, does not receive any direct funds from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services."

In 2015, the state initiated administrative action against Care Circle, in response to repeat violations. That includes a suspension to admit new residents and a threat to revoke the homes' license. A hearing was supposed to be held to determine the outcome. But the state said there is no hearing scheduled.

"At this time, the department has been conducting on-going work to help Care Circle correct its deficiencies," said Wandersleben in an earlier statement.

"We have to make sure that there is a process when we find a bad home, or a home that's not providing the quality we want, to be able to transfer those people immediately into a home that provides quality care," said Russell.

Russell said he believes that legal and bureaucratic steps are making it complicated for the state to revoke Care Circle's license. But he also said he hasn't seen a situation as bad as Care Circle's, in which it continues to keep its license despite years of problems.

"I'm surprised and saddened that nothing has happened," said Russell who added that a majority of adult care facilities in the state are clean and operated in good faith.

Care Circle's owners have declined our repeated requests for an interview.

Due to our initial investigation, News 5 has learned that a local agency removed one of its clients from Care Circle and placed him elsewhere.