238 coffee cans of used syringes, missing pills cost Liberty Borough personal care home its license

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The owner of a Liberty Borough personal care home has lost his license after police said they found more than 200 coffee cans of used syringes in a back room of the facility.

Authorities also found pills locked in William Garvin's office desk drawer at Liberty Manor Personal Care Home and close to 2,000 prescription pills that had belonged to current and former residents, borough police Officer Ray Johnson said.

The findings Sunday prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare to close the home and issue an emergency relocation order Monday.

Between 4 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. today, the 29 residents were moved to other facilities or with family members, department spokeswoman Anne Bale said.

Mr. Gavin, who Officer Johnson said is also an attorney, could not be reached.

Officer Johnson said Liberty Manor had various public welfare violations in 2011.

"But he always seemed to find his way to get out of them," he said of its owner, Mr. Garvin.

A Liberty Manor employee told police last week that a supervisor at the facility was stealing Klonopin, a medication used to control seizures and anxiety, which had been prescribed for a former patient.

The supervisor split the pills with the employee, Officer Johnson said.

Police served a search warrant at the McKeesport home of the supervisor, where officers said they found nearly 100 Klonopin pills, 10 Vicodin in a plastic baggy and 100 650-milligram Tylenol pills.

Officer Johnson served a search warrant at the personal care home Sunday night and said he found inside Mr. Garvin's desk drawer "multiple prescriptions" that had belonged to a single female patient.

That woman "went out for a hospital run" last Monday and Mr. Garvin "refused her back" into the facility, Officer Johnston said.

It was not immediately clear why she was not allowed back in.

Police also found 24 cans of old syringes in Mr. Garvin's office. Mr. Garvin told police that he wasn't sure what company was supposed to dispose of the syringes, which are considered a biohazard being stored as they were.

Officer Johnston said police learned that the home didn't have a partnership with a company to remove the syringes.

Later, police found the 238 coffee cans of old syringes in another room as well as the 2,000 prescription pills from current and former residents, Officer Johnson said.

Officer Johnson said two people are facing charges. He expects to obtain arrest warrants sometime early next week.

Problems at Liberty Manor have been documented as far back as 2000.

That year, forensic pathologist and then-Allegheny County coroner Cyril H. Wecht said that elderly people at the facility weren't being cared for properly but that he wouldn't recommend criminal charges be filed.

The statement came after an 84-year-old Alzheimer's patient, Helen Barber, walked away from the facility and was found dead at the bottom of a cliff two days later.

A two-day inquest revealed that the night Ms. Barber left the home, she and 14 other patients were being cared for by a single employee who had no medical training and whose only previous job was in the Giant Eagle deli.

Pennsylvania welfare department inspections in October 2012, January 2013, and February of this year found multiple violations, including seven repeat offenses, Ms. Bale said.

Violations included: blocked emergency exits, space heater use in resident room, combustibles near heating sources and in smoking area, unsafe bedside lighting, unlabeled poisonous materials, black mold in the basement area, walls with paint and plaster peeling, overflowing dumpster with trash on ground, and incomplete assessments and support plans.

The welfare department conducts unannounced inspections at least every 12 months to ensure ongoing compliance, Ms. Bale said, because it is possible for conditions at personal care homes to deteriorate even if the facilities have not previously had problems.

Liberty Borough police were assisted by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office and the Allegheny County police narcotics unit.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.


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