Farren Care Center closure delayed to January, but still on track

  • Closure of the Farren Care Center in Montague has been pushed back to January instead of this month. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2020 4:38:03 PM

MONTAGUE — The closure of the Farren Care Center has been delayed to the beginning of January, although the facility’s parent company had originally planned to close before the end of 2020.

The plan to close was initially announced in August. The Farren’s parent company, Trinity Health of New England, explained at the time that the building was too old for its purposes and would be too expensive to update to modern standards.

In the plan, the Farren Care Center on Montague City Road essentially merges with a similar facility in Holyoke called Mount Saint Vincent Care Center, and is taken over by a Connecticut company called iCare Health Network.

The plan was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at the end of October, putting the Farren on track to close by the end of 2020.

The delay to early January was announced Tuesday by Trinity Health. President Janice Hamilton-Crawford noted that the closure plan is not being revised, and is still legally sound, per the Department of Public Health.

“Due to the complexity of the transition before us, and in keeping with our commitment to maintain the safety and well-being of those entrusted to our care, we have made the decision to postpone,” Hamilton-Crawford said.

She said the delay will allow consistency in staffing and business operations.

At the Department of Public Health’s public hearing, in September, several family members of Farren patients and former employees criticized the closure plan for effectively reducing local access to the specialized mental health care that the Farren provides, and for forcing patients of the Farren to explore alternative facilities during a pandemic.

Trinity Health has maintained, however, that all of the Farren’s 105 patients have been offered space at Mount Saint Vincent in Holyoke, which has enough space to accommodate all of them.

In the town of Montague’s perspective, the biggest potential problem relating to the closure is the future of the building, which is assessed to be worth about $5 million, according to the Montague Assessors’ Office.

Montague has a recent history of other relatively large employers suddenly closing and abandoning large buildings to languish — as happened most recently with the abrupt closure of the Southworth paper company, in 2017.

But the outlook with the Farren building is optimistic, Town Administrator Steve Ellis has said. Trinity Health has been receptive to the town’s concerns, and has indicated it would be willing to fund a study on redevelopment, and to maintain the building until it is sold, Ellis said.

“We believe they are speaking to us in good faith,” Ellis said previously. “You’ve seen some instances where an organization has gone bankrupt and walked away from the building. ... We do not believe that this is going to be that type of situation at all.”

An agreement with Trinity Health has not yet been formalized, but is expected to be settled in January.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.

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