February 21, 2018

Masonicare to sell Newtown senior care campus for $13.1M

Wallingford's Masonicare Corp. has agreed to sell its Newtown skilled-nursing and assisted-living senior care facilities to a Farmington-based operator for $13.1 million, according to documents filed with the state Department of Public Health.

Athena Newtown CT LLC, part of Athena Health Care Systems, will purchase Masonicare at Newtown Inc., which includes Lockwood Lodge, a 56-unit senior-housing facility that provides services including assisted living, and Alzheimer's disease and dementia care. Athena is buying all of the 43-acre property at 139 Toddy Hill Road, which also includes a 154-bed skilled-nursing facility that provides nursing and rehabilitation services.

Masonicare CEO Jon-Paul Venoit said the decision to sell was based on a larger trend of more rehabilitation care shifting to home and community-care environments, as well as the financial challenges of operating a nursing home largely dependent on Medicaid reimbursements.

"We're trying to shift our revenue stream," Venoit said in an interview Tuesday of the current high reliance on state and federal reimbursement. "We're trying to balance that out a little bit."

Masonicare, which says it's the state's largest provider of senior health care, senior living, homecare and hospice, will continue to provide home and community care services in Newtown while divesting its nursing home operation, Venoit said. Masonicare isn't exiting the nursing home business entirely; it will continue to run its 375-bed nursing home at its main campus in Wallingford, he said.

While its main campus is in Wallingford, other Masonicare properties include an independent-living, assisted-living and assisted living memory care facility in Mystic; Chester Village, an independent and assisted-living complex off Route 9 in Chester with 105 apartment and townhome units that Masonicare purchased in December; and parcels in Mansfield and Oxford for future expansion, plus branches and services statewide.

Athena's website say it's recognized as one of the region's largest managers of skilled-nursing facilities.

It's anticipated that Athena will continue to provide licensed skilled-nursing and assisted-living services, plus the same or improved community amenities and services, according to documents filed with DPH. Masonicare Newtown's amenities include shopping, walking paths, a wellness center, computer center and greenhouse. It also offers activities for residents and transportation to area doctors. It serves Newtown, adjoining towns, Roxbury and Danbury.

The sale is contingent upon, among other things, the receipt of all regulatory approvals. Masonicare believes it does not need a Certificate of Need approval from the state Office of Health Care Access. A letter from Masonicare's attorney argues nursing homes are exempt from the state's CON requirements.

If a CON is not required, the sale could close in a few months, Venoit said. If the state requires a CON, that timeline will be extended, he said.

Athena's purchase agreement also includes provisions that it will "use reasonable efforts to hire substantially all of [Masonicare at Newtown's] employees prior to or at the time of the closing," according to the DPH documents.

Athena, founded in 1984, provides services that include short-term rehabilitation, long-term, respite and hospice care in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It has 19 facilities in Connecticut and about 8,000 total employees.

The deal also includes a two-acre parcel with a log cabin housing Masonicare's homecare services administrative operation, which Masonicare will relocate, Venoit said, bringing the total sale acreage to 45 acres.

"I think it's a great opportunity for us and it's a great opportunity for Athena," Venoit said.

An Athena representative did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

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