TRENTON – Three Republicans in the U.S. Senate, including the ranking members on the Judiciary and Aging committees, are calling for the Justice Department to investigate whether a troubled Sussex County nursing home violated the civil rights of its residents.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also wants the government to update its review of whether to terminate Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover from the Medicare and Medicaid programs  – a huge source of funding, without which the facility likely would have to close.

“The decision to close a nursing home, especially in rural areas, is a difficult choice and requires the federal government to balance the needs of the community with the rights of nursing home residents and their families,” Grassley wrote in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “However, in this case, problems at Woodland have persisted for years, calling into question the facility’s ability to care for its residents.”

Grassley was joined by U.S. Sens. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, in calling for the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act investigation.

“Evidence suggests that Woodland has subjected its residents to egregious and flagrant conditions that have caused them to suffer serious physical and emotional harm,” they wrote. “The federal government must intervene to prevent abuse and neglect of elderly patients at Woodland.”

Woodland achieved national notoriety early in the pandemic when police discovered 17 bodies in a makeshift morgue, back when it was known as Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center. Its problems continue: Last month, the state made it stop admitting new residents due to alleged abuse and neglect.

Woodland has already been given until August to fix health and safety violations in order to continue participation in Medicare and Medicaid, but Grassley is asking for a detailed update.

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The federal government is already examining whether the state’s veterans’ homes in Menlo Park and Paramus violated CRIPA in its handling of the pandemic.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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