Canterbury Hills to close at the end of July

Canterbury Hills, an adult care home with a history of complaints, EMS calls and state violations, will close at the end of the month.

The announcement came quietly through letters the Candler facility’s director Wittner Wright sent on July 1 to the Buncombe County Health Department and N.C. Division of Health Care Regulation. Written 30-day notices of adult care home closures of this kind are required under state regulation. These notices must include both a closing date and plans to move residents.

At Canterbury Hills, Wright says “the majority” of his 58 residents have some sort of mental diagnosis or illness.

An investigation of all adult care homes in North Carolina by the U.S. Department of Justice two years ago concluded that the state mismanaged its placement of mentally ill adults. In the DOJ’s letter to the state, it reads, “Most people with mental illness receiving services in adult care homes could be served in more integrated settings, but are relegated indefinitely and necessarily to adult care homes because of systematic state actions and policies.” By definition, adult care homes provide residential care for the elderly, and also for people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems.

“Nobody is getting displaced. I’ve been advocating for these guys for years and will find suitable placement for them,” Wright states. “I’ve already gotten several [placement] offers for most of my residents.” Though Wright declined to cite specific rest homes or facilities that will take his residents, Wright says that most of his residents should be able to receive care in Western North Carolina or “a little further east.”

Wright has worked at Canterbury Hills for the last decade. However, those 10 years have been riddled with complaints from community members and penalties from the state. According to documents obtained by Xpress today, as recently as January and June of this year, the 99-bed facility received two additional penalties to the two penalties listed online through the state, resulting in fines of $6,600 and $20,000, respectively. The $6,600 penalty was related to housekeeping concerns. The $20,000 penalty came after an inspection revealed that the facility needed to “assure referral and follow-up to meet the routine and acute health care needs of residents.”

But Wright insists that the pending penalties at the N.C. Division of Health Care Regulation, all of which have been appealed at this time, have nothing to do with the closing of Canterbury Hills.

“The financial and political pressures sort of led to this [closure],” he says. Wright specifically cites the DOJ investigation into the state’s adult care homes and changing state regulations.  “We’re not the only facilities that have already closed throughout the state, and we’ve held on longer than some of the big ones with the type of residents that we have.”

Buncombe County social work supervisor Cathie Beatty works as the supervisor of the local team of county employees who monitor adult care homes for the county and has been to Canterbury Hills in the past.

“I think those of us in the field do recognize that, at times, it’s those hard-to-place residents that a facility like Canterbury has been able to take. And I think it’s harder and harder to find appropriate placements for some residents with a real high acuity of need,” she says.

Addressing the complaints about the assisted living facility from the community, Beatty notes that most of the community’s concerns and complaints about Canterbury Hills are related to supervision of the facility’s residents.

It’s something that Wright has heard, too.

“I always said that we’re a square peg in a round hole. People want us to put a fence around the yard, but that’s not what adult care homes are. The residents have the same rights as you and I and are free to check out and leave.”

With the impending closure, the focus now shifts to resident placement. As established under a 2011 session bill from the North Carolina General Assembly, an adult care home resident discharge team from the local department of social services will be working with community partners like Western Highlands Network to help current Canterbury residents find a new rest homes.

“It would be our desire to have people go to their county of origin where they may have more natural support,” Beatty says, adding, “We have a total of 86 adult care homes in the community. The hope is that we will have enough resources to provide assisted living care for all of those residents at Canterbury.”

— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext.140 or


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