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‘Is your experience equal to mine?’

Care Center continues to cause turmoil

Alex Kielar
Posted 5/7/24

MONTICELLO — The Adult Care Center at Sunset Lake in Liberty continues to be the most consistent topic of conversation at Sullivan County Legislature meetings.

The topic has been brought …

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‘Is your experience equal to mine?’

Care Center continues to cause turmoil


MONTICELLO — The Adult Care Center at Sunset Lake in Liberty continues to be the most consistent topic of conversation at Sullivan County Legislature meetings.

The topic has been brought up during public comment at nearly every full board meeting and committee meeting. 

As such was the case on Thursday, May 2, as Narrowsburg resident Star Hesse spoke about the letter addressed to New York State Center for Long Term Care Licensure Director Mark Furnish, Esq., which five legislators signed off on and strongly advocated that Sunset SNF Operations LLC/Sunset Lake Consulting be approved as the operator of the Care Center. 

As the Democrat previously reported, the five legislators to sign off on the letter, dated March 11, were District 2 Legislator and Chair Nadia Rajsz, District 4 Legislator Nicholas Salomone, District 7 Legislator and Vice Chair Joseph Perrello, District 8 Legislator Amanda Ward and District 9 Legislator Terry Blosser-Bernardo. 

“Ever since the county handed over the operation of Sunset Lake ACC to Infinite Care, the Adult Care Center has been in an operational death spiral,” said Hesse. “Having full knowledge of Infinite Care’s atrocious past operational record, it is hard to understand how these Legislators, most of whom ran for election on promises to take back and restore Sunset Lake ACC, now flatly advocate handing it back to the same predatory, for-profit operators who have almost destroyed it. Granting SUNSET, aka Infinite Care Consulting, a certificate of need (CON) will only put the same slipshod and negligent managers back in charge for the final coup de grace of Sunset Lake ACC.”

Hesse also noted that the list of complaints of neglect and mismanagement against Infinite Care is well known. She said that no CON should be issued and that one should not even be considered until Infinite Care is gone. 

To this, Perrello rebutted, saying that he doesn’t believe anything that Hesse said and that he thinks “it’s made up.”

“I still stand with the letter and I’m sure the rest of the legislators who signed it agree that we should move forward with Infinite Care,” Perrello said. “My mind will not change.”

Scott fired back at Perrello and thanked Hesse for her “astute public comment” on behalf of the elders, residents and future elders. 

“If we don’t protect our residents, who’s going to?” Scott asked. 

Perrello argued that they are protecting the elders by putting the facility in the hands of Infinite Care. 

“No, you’re just looking to hand it over to a substandard operator,” Scott said. 

Perrello described that the county has been substandard in the problems with the nursing home and that Scott “doesn’t want to see it.” The District 5 Legislator then questioned Perrello about what his opinions are based on. 

“Did you have a loved one there?” Scott questioned. “How many hours have you spent in the Care Center over the course of your tenure?”

Perrello dodged giving a straight answer to these questions from Scott and instead turned it back around to the public.

“Half these people that come to these meetings haven’t been to the nursing home for the last three years,” he shouted. “But I did my homework. So they could come here and complain about that nursing home, but they haven’t even walked a foot in the place and they are bashing it. Infinite Care will do the right job and I’m sure that they have been doing the right job with all their other facilities.”

Perrello also noted that nobody wants to give it a chance and that the reason why it’s in the condition it’s in is because “everybody keeps dragging it down.”

Answering Scott’s previous questioning, Perrello said that when District 7 Legislator Luis Alvarez’s wife was at the facility, he would visit them. He said he was there many different times. 

“Did I go there every day?” Perrello said, “No, I was there about two or three times a year.”

To this, Scott fired back and said, “So would you say that your experience is equal to my experience?” 

This was in reference to Scott having firsthand experience at the facility with her mother being a resident there before passing away. 

Scott finished the back-and-forth saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t open the door I just walked through it.”


Public stands firm

Later, in the Economic Development Committee meeting, public commenter Sandra Oxford stood up for Hesse and noted that the legislature is going down a road that has been seen before, referencing the previous board.

“Super volunteers from the community coming here to be called a liar is unacceptable,” said Oxford. “Where is the leadership from this body that is going to organize us, engage us and be sure that Sullivan County voices are heard at the state and national level?”

Even when given the chance to by Oxford, Perrello didn’t walk back what he said in response to Hesse’s comments and said he didn’t misspeak. 

Callicoon resident Lou Setren also made clear that the opinions that he and other members of the public base their opinions on are directly from staff, residents and family members who have loved ones at the facility.   

“It is exceedingly unfortunate that staff members at the facility are no longer able to speak freely about what they observe at the facility,” Setren said. “They are threatened with discipline and threatened with termination and they aren’t authorized to speak at public meetings about what they observe at the facility.”

Setren also noted that many staff members are reluctant to file complaints with the New York State Department of Health because they are fearful of suffering retribution because of making reports of what they observe.

“I do appreciate that Mr. Perrello has, in fact, visited the facility and has made the attempt to find out what goes on at the facility,” he said. “I’m disappointed that Mr. Perrello, as far as I am aware, has not spoken to anyone at the facility other than management personnel.”

Setren also said that while he no longer has a loved one at the facility after his mother passed away, he continues to volunteer at the facility. He also told the Democrat that despite not having a family member there anymore, the residents are like family to him. So in truth, he said that he really does have family there, and he cares deeply for all the residents. 

Setren serves as President of the Family Council and said he hears from people whose interests are different from those of management. 

“To discount the opinions of others who are hearing from family members, residents and staff at the facility and brand them as being untruthful in the comments that they make before this body is unacceptable at every level.”  

Liberty resident Martha Scappa, along with Setren, urged for civility from the board and noted that it was very discouraging and a step back to see the infighting and more finger-pointing between legislators, something that was common with the last board. 

With the Health and Human Services committee meeting on Thursday, May 9, the topic of the Care Center is certain to come up again. 


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