A controversial, for-profit mental-health-treatment program is shutting down its operation in a suburb south of Seattle after struggling financially and failing to be licensed by the state.
Hanbleceya informed its clients several weeks ago that they had until Sunday to find new living arrangements.
The Seattle Times reported last July that the company had opened a clinic in Normandy Park Towne Center, bought three homes and rented two others in Normandy Park, then secretly placed mentally ill and drug-addicted clients in the homes with no state oversight.
Hanbleceya said it provided clients semi-independent, long-term housing with off-site clinical care and charged $100,000 a year. But the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) found it was operating the homes illegally.
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The company, based in La Mesa, Calif., came under attack last year by Normandy Park residents who were outraged that there was no government regulation of the program.
Two clients had attempted suicide at the homes and two others claim they were kicked out of the homes for infractions and forced to live in homeless shelters or on the street until allowed to be readmitted, The
Hanbleceya caught clients off guard in early June, notifying them it was closing, and quickly stopped services for those who didn’t move to the company’s group homes in California, a 47-year-old client from Hawaii said Thursday.
“The doors were locked and everyone left,” he said. “I didn’t think I would get 10 days’ notice and they would leave without making sure we had medication, without making sure we had doctors set up, without making sure we had a place to live. They literally ran out of town.”
He said he did find an apartment but would not be able to obtain a community mental-health provider until September.
Tom O’Keefe, the owner of Normandy Park Towne Center, said he was told by Hanbleceya’s managing partner, Kerry Paulson, that he wanted to terminate a multiyear lease as early as the end of July.
“It’s unfortunate and sad,” said O’Keefe, who hasn’t received formal notice yet. “I wish it would have turned out better for them, the patients and neighborhood.”
Paulson didn’t return phone messages seeking comment. He told The Times last summer: “We’re not going away. We want to be a good, solid member of the community.”
Stacia Jenkins, a Normandy Park council member who has been a critic of Hanbleceya, said Thursday: “There’s been a lot of quiet high-fives” in the small, tight-knit community.
She and others said they were not against the mentally ill living there, rather they wanted the homes to have some regulation.
Elaine Cotlove, a retired psychiatrist who lives in Normandy Park, said she is thrilled by Hanbleceya’s closing and hopes it creates a dialogue about caring for the disabled.
Hanbleceya “earned our enmity by the fact that they were, really basically, one: incompetent professionally; and two: cruel to their patients,” she said.
Last summer, some residents were so concerned about patient care and the lack of regulations they formed a grass-roots group called Normandy Park Cares, raised money and hired a lawyer to fight Hanbleceya while the city created a task force.
A lengthy investigation by DSHS determined in September that Hanbleceya was illegally operating adult family homes. An adult family home is a residential home licensed to provide room, board and specialized care for as many as six unrelated adults.
DSHS ordered Hanbleceya to become licensed immediately and to follow regulations while the state agency continued to inspect the homes.
Another agency — Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) — began
an investigation in August to determine if Hanbleceya and others associated with the company violated the Washington Securities Act when investors, who kicked in more than $1 million, were told they could get an 18 to 20 percent return over three years.
Bill Beatty, DFI securities administrator, said the agency is negotiating a resolution with Hanbleceya.
By December, Hanbleceya changed its care model, dispensing medication, for example, only at its off-site clinic. As a result, it was able to sidestep DSHS rules and avoid applying for licenses for four of its five homes.
That same month, a Hanbleceya employee — under a new entity, Normandy Park Adult Family Home LLC — applied for an adult-family-home license for one of the homes. But it did not meet requirements, said Lori Melchiori, assistant director of Residential Care Services for DSHS. The agency voided the application Tuesday because the company missed its deadline to provide answers.
Council member Jenkins said, “We proved our point — they couldn’t sustain their business model and do it legitimately. I have never trusted they were being genuine in their attempts to become regulated by the state.”
With just a three-week notice, some clients are scrambling to find places to live. Of the last 10 or so clients, most have already moved into apartments, and a few have transferred to Hanbleceya group homes in La Mesa.
“It’s kind of like being bumped out of the nest,” said a 36-year-old client from New Mexico, who didn’t want his name used because it might hinder finding an apartment
in the area.
He said he and others may be ready to live independently. “For some, this just encouraged them to make the next step,” he said.
He has been in the Hanbleceya program for almost a year, being treated for a delusion disorder in which he thinks people believe he’s a spy.
He said he was told by staff that Hanbleceya was closing because it was struggling financially and not getting new clients.
He said that Hanbleceya wants him and the three remaining clients living in one house to move out in the next couple of days, but that staff won’t kick them out.
“I think Hanbleceya as an institution made some unwise decisions and that came back to bite them,” he said.
But for him, it has been a positive experience.
“It has been my sanctuary,” he said.
Christine Willmsen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-3261. On twitter @christinesea