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Delayed, but ongoing: Criminal case wrapping up in Lake Arthur Place flooding

Port Arthur Police are completing the criminal investigation into the chaos that happened at a local nursing home last year, where patients were left in floodwaters during Tropical Storm Harvey.

Once completed, the case will be sent to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Port Arthur Police Det. Mike Hebert said the timing of the end of the investigation into Lake Arthur Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has nothing to do with the one-year-anniversary of the flood that dumped upward of 60 inches of rain on the area and prompted boat rescues.

“We were in such a recovery mode for so many months and we were short on manpower,” Hebert said when asked why the investigation didn’t end sooner. “Then once we began interviewing, we traveled across the state to interview people, and tried to get the word out to families.

“We didn’t get a big response at first and did not want to submit the report too quickly. … It’s a process we worked with the state and federal government.”

Scene documented

The scene from last year was well documented by local and other news media with photos that went viral of frail, elderly nursing home residents, civilian volunteers and police. According to court documents from a civil case, Hebert arrived at the facility by boat on Aug. 30, 2017 where he noted 10 to 12 inches of water inside the entire facility, strong odor of human feces and urine and some patients with their lower extremities in the water.

Hebert met with Jeff Rosetta, director of the nursing home, and an altercation ensued.

Rosetta did not want the nursing home residents taken from the facility and told officers “they could not evacuate anyone” and that “the National Guard was on the way.” Police had no knowledge of the National Guard being deployed to the location.

Eventually, residents were brought to the parking lot of the Port Arthur Little Theater where they were transported to other areas of Texas, including San Augustine, Nacogdoches, Center, Lufkin and Huntington.

Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, confirmed they have reopened their case.

Complaints reopened

“To ensure completeness of our regulatory work, we’ve reopened a number of complaints related to Lake Arthur Place and Cypress Glen in Port Arthur,” Mann said via email. “There were challenges in investigating closed facilities that sustained heavy flood damage. Surveyors could not reach some facility staff and some former residents to interview. We want to make sure we’ve reviewed all possible information before closing an investigation.”

Mann said the Department of Aging and Disability Services used to license and regulate nursing and assisted-living facilities. DADS no longer exists and those functions were transferred to the THHSC on Sept. 1, 2017.

In general, the HHCS surveyors investigate every complaint based on the evidence reviewed and can either substantiate or unsubstantiate each complaint.

The agency can also pursue enforcement remedies for substantiated allegations.

“Depending on the nature and seriousness of a violation, enforcement action can include the assessment of administrative or civil monetary penalties, denial or revocation of a license, suspension of admissions, denial of payment for all new Medicaid admissions, emergency license suspension and/or closure,” she said.

Statement issued

On Sept. 7, 2017, Senior Care Centers, which oversees both Lake Arthur and Cypress Glen Nursing and Rehabilitation, issued a statement on their Facebook site saying there had been a considerable amount of misinformation across social media and news media about the aftermath of the storm.

The post said floodwater began entering the two facilities around 11:30 p.m. Aug. 29, 2017 and that they were in contact with Port Arthur Fire Department and DADS and “were told to expect an evacuation by the National Guard sometime in the early morning hours.” This did not occur, they said, due to worsening conditions but patients were overseen by medical personnel at the facilities.

A media spokesperson for Senior Care’s corporate office in Dallas referred The News to the Facebook statement and said they may release a statement.

Both nursing homes remain closed. A number of civil suits were filed by family members of nursing home residents.