Yet Another Reprieve for Valley View

By Michael Kaufman

I tried in vain to differentiate between the knaves and fools among the 12 Orange County legislators who cast 12 futile votes Thursday to authorize the sale of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation. The vote came after several hours of public comments that again made it abundantly clear to everyone in the packed auditorium (except for the aforementioned 12 knaves or fools) that the overwhelming majority of Orange County residents want to keep Valley View publicly owned.

I wish I were an expert in interpreting body language or had one with me during the session. He or she would have been able to explain why some legislators’ faces turned red as beets and others slunk into their seats and avoided eye contact with audience members. Curlie Dillard, the sole Democrat among the 12, was careful not to attract attention to his self and uttered but one word during the entire session, a quick “yes” during the roll call. Democratic Caucus Chair Jeff Berkman, whose plan to “save Valley View by downsizing it” (and selling some beds to a private for-profit company) was dead in the water before the meeting started, appeared humble as he explained his reasoning. In the end, however, he joined the rest of his caucus (with the exception of the aforementioned Dillard) in voting “no” and denying County Executive Steve Neuhaus the requisite 14-vote supermajority he craves.

Chairman Steve Brescia did an admirable job of running the meeting and keeping a straight face while knowing that nothing said—no matter how factual, eloquent or passionate—would change his mind or those of the other 11 knaves or fools.  Was that stress-induced rosacea on Legislator Michael Amo’s face or was it that red because his bow tie was too tight around his neck? Amo, introduced by Brescia as “party leader Amo” because he is chair (and sole member) of the legislature’s one-man Independence Party caucus, voted “yes” after a peculiar but apparently sincere soliloquy lamenting that more isn’t being done to enable families to care for loved ones at home.

Republican Dennis Simmons got red-faced as he listened to a host of veterans who questioned the legislature’s commitment to the men and women who have served in the military to protect our rights and are now in need of care. He’s a veteran too, he said, and recited his name, rank, and serial number to prove it. He said he knows from experience of his own family members that you can get really good care from low-paid workers at private nursing homes. He objected to those who would “besmirch” those workers’ reputations! (He also complained that former County Executive Ed Diana’s reputation got “besmirched” on a previous occasion.) This was after several speakers cited statistics comparing the large number of complaints filed against Focus, the private operator said to be the favorite to take over Valley View, versus the small number of complaints filed against Valley View. One of the complaints against Focus involved sexual abuse of an elderly woman and Simmons thought it was a cheap shot to mention it.

Majority Leader Melissa Bonacic did not seem at all uncomfortable as she thanked the veterans in attendance for their service and assured them that this legislature (which as presently composed seems incapable of governing its way out of a paper bag) would see to it that all current residents of Valley View would receive the same level of care if Valley View were sold to a private operator. Her reasoning was twofold (and also places her squarely in the fool category): “It’s the trend,” she explained, adding that counties all over the state are getting rid of their nursing homes and that she’s scared. Her second reason? “I don’t believe the county should be in the nursing home business.”

But that is precisely the point. Valley View has thrived lo these past 183 years because it is not a “business.” It has been publicly owned, supported by tax dollars, and provides a vital service to the residents of Orange County. Assurances from Bonacic or any other county legislator that the quality of care will be maintained for current and future residents if the facility is privatized must be taken with at least 12 grains of salt. And speaking of future residents, here are some other things to consider: Orange County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state in terms of population. The so-called middle class is shrinking here as it is throughout the USA with no end in sight to the rise in wealth inequality. People are living longer. Taken together this means more people among the lower 99 percent will be in need of the services provided by Valley View simply because they won’t be able to afford to pay for equivalent quality care at a private facility.

Thanks are in order to the nine legislators who stood fast against the bullying of the county executive and his minions in the legislature. Several deserve special mention, most notably Republican Mike Anagnostakis, who has put in many hours studying the flawed 2015 budget proposed by Neuhaus and has suggested reality-based alternatives to the sale of Valley View, upon which the Neuhaus budget relies. Unflinching support for Valley View also came from Democrats Matt Turnbull, Roseanne Sullivan, Chris Eachus, and Myrna Kemnitz.

Thanks to them and the handful of other Democrats who voted no, Valley View will now be funded for a full year instead of a few months. But this fight is far from over. The private nursing home operators see gold in “them thar hills” of Goshen. And Neuhaus and his knaves and fools will continue to do all they can to hand it over to them.

Michael can be reached at

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6 Responses to “Yet Another Reprieve for Valley View”

  1. ESME Says:

    This is about the most accurate account I have read on the subject. And there are so many details being hidden to the public that it makes me furious. Our CE has been using every and any way he can, whether it be on his own private radio show WTBQ, where he recently called in calling himself “THE TRUTH BRIGADE”, the speeches he makes at the countless breakfast, lunch and dinners and any other event he attends, to tell the public that VVC is the bane of all the fiscal problems facing OC. And now Focus Ventures, the one and only bidder and the proposed new buyer, is using the same media firm Stephan used to run his election campaign…Focus Media. Who and what is Focus Ventures. They own Focus at Utica nursing home which has 54 deficiencies, they have an employee who sexually assaulted an 80yr. old woman, they are a 1-star rated facility (VVC is a 4 star rated facility). They own Emstar ambulance, a durable medical store provider, a home health care nursing service, and are in the land development business. Their owner and CEO, Joseph Zupnik was once CFO of Center for Speciality Care, Ed Diana’s 1st choice last time around after Pascocello dropped out. Do you really think these boys still do not play with each other. Why would we want to give all the profit to be made on our county land to an outside consortium? Why is VVC the only cost saving measure the CE can come up with to save the day? And as far as Ms. Bonicic or anyone else guaranteeing the resident the same quality of care, think again. Once sold, the new owners have the right to tell the residents they can no longer have a bed in this facility, or if anyone took the time to read the original RFP in Myrna Kemnitz’ book, the new owners have the right to sell the facility the next day. It is theirs to do what they wish. I urge everyone to look up the DOH records on all the for-profits in OC, which our CE says we do not pay for, but our tax dollars do. Look at the type of care in the review columns written by loved ones. We at VVC are blessed and we want this care to continue for all those yet to come through our doors. We who work behind the scenes and who live each day in the midst, know what the truth is. Our very own politicians have sold out the middle class, the people who work everyday and are struggling to make a living here in OC. Please do not believe the men who stand to make a profit off the backs of the residents of VVC who are now so very fragile. Join the fight with the people behind the scenes who are devoting their time and energy to spread the truth and stop not only the corruption in VVC, but the corruption yet to come during the next 3-yrs. It is time to start over with 12 new legislators and an honest CE, one who cannot be bought. The meeting on Thursday night brought 300 people and a contingent of Veterans who some say when they walked in brought tears to their eyes. We have 45 Veterans who reside at VVC. 3-yrs. ago we had 86. I wish to thank the person who orchestrated their attendance. I want everyone to continue to stand up for justice or plan to be an accomplice to the pervading evil of “The Truth Brigade”.
    November 12, 2014 – The Hudson Valley Building Trades Council today announced a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with Focus Ventures, a long-term health care organization that recently announced a proposed educational alliance with Touro College. Focus Ventures is proposing to build an integrated health care community at the Valley View site in Goshen and bring new long-term care programs to Middletown.
    As part of its proposal to purchase the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, Focus Ventures’ vision includes a $75 million investment for the Goshen site, including major upgrades to the nursing center, and an integrated health campus with quality housing, walking trails and parks, health facilities and access to important on-site care programs.
    Focus Ventures is proposing the region’s first specialized long-term pediatric center, including ventilator care adjacent to Touro College’s Middletown campus. In addition, an adult medical day care program will be established in Middletown.
    “This PLA will help local families, and invest in our community,” said Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council President L. Todd Diorio. “Focus Ventures’ proposal for Valley View and Middletown has the full support of the 28 trade locals and 10,000 plus members affiliated with the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council.”
    “My dealings with Focus Ventures has been very good,” Diorio said. “This is an example of how, in many cases, labor can protect wages and working conditions when privatization occurs. The project labor agreement ensures prevailing wages will be paid and local labor will be used.”
    Focus Ventures CEO Joe Zupnik added, “We believe the PLA demonstrates our commitment to the local workforce, and we are excited to work with Touro College.”
    “With our proposal to purchase Valley View, we believe this will be an opportunity for Orange County to receive enhanced health care and new long-term care programs,” he added.
    Media Contact:
    Josh Sommers, Focus Media

    This proves without doubt they are the new buyer. They have $$$ and connections. And WHO will this land really serve to benefit?

  2. Legislator Mike Anagnostakis Says:

    Dear Mr. Kaufman:

    Thank you for taking the time to come out to observe — and report on — democracy in action!

    Mike Anagnostakis
    Orange County Legislator

  3. Paulette Says:

    I am a retired NYS Health Department investigator. As an investigator and regulator, I investigated complaints and incidents in our seven county area. In many instances I was the team leader to approve or disprove the opening of new health facilities as well as to oversee and approve requests for the addition of new services to existing facilities. I have no personal connections to Valley View. I did not regulate the facility but as a resident of Orange County, I am interested in what is best for the residents of Orange County. In addition, Valley View has always been rated the top facility in our county. Weeks before the 11/13 hearing and meeting, I was told that Mr. Berkman had a deal with the new Touro medical school site at the old Horton site. The plan was to “sell” Valley View beds to Touro. I researched the issue then emailed all legislators with my take on the issue. I clearly identified myself as having approved and disproved the opening and/or addition of services to facilities under NYS regulations. I wrote that Mr. Berkman’s plan was ridiculous because no facility can sell beds to any other facility and that Touro would have to apply to open their own facility which would take years and surely was something that Touro was not interested in doing. I indicated that a response from the NYS Dept. of Health regarding the purchase of beds by Touro would possibly take at least a year only to be turned down because it is something that cannot be done by the state, has never been done nor would it ever be done. Although I did not receive any responses by email, I happen to bump into Legislator Amo here in Monroe. Legislator Amo said he was in total agreement with the fact that it could not be done. On the morning of the last hearing, 11/13, I received a call that Touro received a rejection letter from NYS which had been forwarded to Steve Brescia. I called two legislators to confirm and they were aware. In my speech that evening at the hearing I reminded the legislatorsthat there are many long term care facilities affiliated with medical schools but not run by medical schools and that what Touro’s recent ad in the Times Herald Record purported to do, could not legally be done in any type of partnership as described. In addition the plan of the republican legislators to have the administrator of Valley View oversee other nursing homes in the county in an effort to keep that department open could never be done due to state and federal confidentiality regulations, an issue I first brought up at one of the other Valley View hearings. I believe my finale caught the legislators dead in their tracks. During their discussion, I began waving a copy of the approval for the closure plan dated January 2013 sent to Ed Diana. I questioned that Valley View could not be sold before their closure plan was rescinded. The attorney at the table, Antoinette Reid, stated that they had the legal papers from March and that the closure had expired. How could she have even know that I was bringing this issue forth. Part of Judge Onofy’s decision, noted in the March 2013 legal papers, was as follows:
    “The record further reveals that, against the backdrop of the 2013 county budget adoption process, the New York Department of Health (DOH) was in the process of reviewing a closure plan (the plan) for Valley View; a closure plan, which the record{**40 Misc 3d at 289} suggests, was originally filed by the County Executive in October of 2012, at or about the time of the County Executive’s 2013 budget submission. The record further suggests that the plan was filed without the prior authorization, or knowledge, of the Legislature.”
    “Ultimately, the plan was approved on January 28, 2013; an approval memorialized by DOH Deputy Commissioner Westerfelt’s letter of January 28, 2013 addressed to Valley View Administrator Lawrence LaDue. In approving the plan, DOH Deputy Commissioner Westerfelt noted that the New York State Department of Health had completed its review of the comprehensive closure plan submitted for the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation and, as a result of such review, was certifying that the plan, as submitted, satisfactorily met the criteria established by the Department. The Deputy Commissioner further stated that “it [the plan] assures that appropriate care will be provided to residents throughout the closure process and ensures appropriate transfer of residents.” In concluding, Deputy Commissioner Westerfelt also advised LaDue that at the time the facility was no longer operational and occupied by any residents, it was incumbent upon the County (and the County was so instructed) to “relinquish [its] operating certificate to the Department.”[FN6]
    {**40 Misc 3d at 290}”The closure of Valley View, as it relates to powers exercisable by the executive and legislative branches, is significant from an internal county structural standpoint as well. Article XXIII of the Charter provides for the creation of a Department of Residential Health Care Services, a department which is to be headed by a commissioner, who in turn is appointed by the County Executive, subject to confirmation of such appointment by the County Legislature (§ 23.01). The commissioner’s sole function is to “manage and supervise the Residential Health Care institutions of the County.” (§ 23.02 [a].) Valley View is the only residential health care institution owned and operated by the County.”

  4. Randy Hurst Says:

    I believe Mike Kaufmann nailed it well. And, I couldn’t agree more with the above comments. I was there also. I observed Amo’s rosacea and Simmon’s red face, his babbling and whining; his attacks on the union and heartless commentary. HIs apparent arrogance and ignorance seem to know no bounds. I also know of Neuhaus’ tricks. He could easily pass for another Republican Tricky Dicky or Stevie as the case may be. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could impeach the so and so.

    That night, I was also proud to have made the effort to be at the hearing and to stand as a disabled veteran who served during Vietnam with my fellow/sister veterans who came to support the preservation of Valley View. I trust the fight will continue and I hope I can continue to be there to oppose the privatization of Valley View.

  5. bennett Says:

    Great job Michael.

    Bonacic’s profound, thoughtful and unassailable reasoning, “IT’S THE TREND”, is the exact same answer one might expect from an 18 yr old with rusty manhole covers inserted into his infected earlobes. And you know that she must be quite proud of her argument because it’s teh exact same one she offered 3 years ago. I guess ya can’t improve on perfection. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

  6. Pat O'Dwyer Says:

    The night Valley View was saved was nothing short of magical. I knew the veterans had always been mentioned, but how to achieve having them there. I called the man who delivers every time. Pete Rollins. Pete is head of the OC Disabled Viet Nam War Veteran’s and his wife Laurie are always ready to help. He put the word out, got the Commander to send an eblast and I cried along with everyone else as I was honored to escort them to their seats. Pete asked one question: “Do you want them in uniform”? And bless them, they wore their hats and jackets with all the dignity in the world. Currently, Orange County, according to the New York State Health Department, has an unmet long term bed need of 724 beds. Valley View under the excellent management of Laurence Ladue maintains about a 94% occupancy rate. 14. Valley View is not a facility or residence. It is “home” to 320+ people who live on Quarry Road in Goshen.

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