Cedarbrook Residential Center of Nebo is an 80-bed adult care home in McDowell County. Negative state findings and penalties against Cedarbrook disappeared as part of court-ordered compliance with a settlement agreement in January 2017. Michael Gebelein / Carolina Public Press

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published on Nov. 16, 2017, following an administrative law judge’s ruling in a Nov. 15, 2017, hearing. The article was updated on Nov. 22, 2017, after the judge filed his written order. The updates reflect information from that written order. Material that is new in the update is noted with “UPDATE:” at the beginning of the paragraph.

Cedarbrook Residential Center, an 80-bed adult care home in McDowell County, will again be able to admit new residents after Administrative Law Judge Randall May granted a temporary restraining order on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

UPDATE: However, May denied Cedarbrook’s simultaneous request for a full stay of the order, according to May’s written order, filed Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Cedarbrook, located in Nebo, faced the admissions suspension last month after state and county surveyors cited the facility for multiple violations found during a September inspection. During an initial hearing on Nov. 7, Cedarbrook owner Frederic Leonard testified that the ban on admissions created a serious financial hardship for his business.

Leonard has disputed the accuracy of the deficiencies for which the state cited Cedarbrook. These included neglecting disabled residents lying in the own waste for extended periods and not adequately supervising residents with severe behavioral problems who posed a threat to the health and safety of other residents or themselves.

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UPDATE: May’s written order made it clear that he agreed that Cedarbrook would face irreparable financial damage if not allowed to admit new patients. He noted that the state statute allowing a suspension of admissions at an adult care home does not provide for any compensation to offset the financial burden this action imposes. But May was apparently not persuaded by Cedarbrook’s arguments that the state imposed the suspension inappropriately. In rejecting the request for a full stay of the contested action, May ordered a full hearing of that aspect of the case “for further presentation of evidence and argument by the parties.”

While the judge’s order allowed Cedarbrook to admit new residents again, the order is temporary and the judge will consider more permanent action at the future hearing, tentatively set for Jan. 9.

UPDATE: If the judge does not grant the full stay at that time, he would likely lift the temporary restraining order and Cedarbrook would again be prohibited from admitting new patients.

Despite asking Office of Administrative Hearings staff several days in advance for notice of any additional hearing in the case, Carolina Public Press was not informed in advance of Nov. 15’s proceedings and was unable to attend. A CPP reporter did attend the first hearing in the case on Nov. 7.

OAH staff said Nov. 16 that Judge May only granted the temporary restraining order “in part,” but has not clarified the situation. The judge had not yet issued his signed order as of that afternoon when this article was first published.

UPDATE: On Nov. 22, Judge May issued his written signed order, including an explanation that he was granting Cedarbrook’s motion for a temporary restraining order but denying its motion for a stay. The judge also noted that under state law, Cedarbrook would be required to post a $2,000 security for the duration of the temporary restraining order within five business days.

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Cedarbrook previously faced even more serious findings, including of residents prostituting themselves, during a November 2015 state survey. The facility also petitioned the OAH in that case and won a temporary restraining order in mid-2016 that allowed it to admit new residents again, despite more than $360,000 in fines, some of the highest fines in record against an adult care home in North Carolina.

Eventually, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services agreed to settle that earlier case in Sept. 2016, dropping all penalties and granting the facility a four-star rating, but not admitting any wrongdoing on the state’s part.

Cedarbrook will likely receive a reduced star rating and financial penalties related to the current citations, but those have not yet been issued.

In North Carolina, adult care homes, including Cedarbrook, are distinct from retirement centers or nursing homes. Adult care homes serve an adult population across a wide age range, many of whom are mentally ill or have severe cognitive disorders. Carolina Public Press published a four-part series in July looking in-depth at adult care homes and their regulation in North Carolina.

Frank Taylor and Michael Gebelein

Frank Taylor is the managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Michael Gebelein is the investigative reporter with Carolina Public Press. Contact them at 828-774-5290, or at ftaylor@carolinapublicpress.org or mgebelein@carolinapublicpress.org.

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