This article was updated on Jan. 2, 2013, to reflect that in the Dec. 20 Eagle story, "Senior care facilities in Dalton sold to investor," Griffin-American Healthcare, which is owned and operated by Sheehan Health Group, recently bought Sugar Hill Senior Living Community in Dalton. The name of the assisted living facility was incorrectly identified as Sugar Hill at Home. Sugar Hill at Home is the name of the home care agency that serves all of Berkshire County. Sheehan Health Group continues to own and operate Sugar Hill at Home along with Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center in Pittsfield.

DALTON -- Two elderly-care facilities are under new ownership after Merrimack Health Group and Sheehan Health Group sold the properties and facilities earlier this month.

Sugar Hill Senior Living Community, an assisted and independent living facility, and Craneville Place, a skilled nursing facility, were purchased by Griffin-American Healthcare REIT II, an investment group based in southern California, for a combined $19,967,000.

Damon Elder, an executive at Griffin-American, said negotiations began in July, but it wasn't until the past few months that the deal came together rapidly.

As the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff situation looms, Elder said he's seen many smaller health care providers looking to sell and complete the transactions this fall, so they won't be susceptible to higher taxation in 2013 if politicians can't come to an agreement before.

"We're in an acquisition mode, aggressively identifying investment opportunities throughout the country," Elder said. "When this looked like a reality, we were very excited because of the quality of care each of the facilities has provided."

Elder said Griffin-American only owns the properties and leases out care of the facilities to groups like Trinity Health Systems, which then sublease the operations to health care providers.

Patrick Sheehan, owner of Sheehan Health Group, said the decision to sell the facilities was "one that had to be made," but declined to comment on further specifics.

"It was very difficulty to see the facilities sold," Sheehan said. "But that was the decision we made. I couldn't be more thankful for the relationships with the staff and residents and being able to work with such wonderful people for the past 15 years."

Sheehan said he'll continue to operate Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center as well as Sugar Hill and is hopeful for the other facilities' new owners.

On Dec. 10, Videll Healthcare, a new Seattle-based health care provider, officially took over care of both Sugar Hill and Craneville Place. They also took over a third facility previously owned by Merrimack Health Group in Hyde Park in Boston.

Steve LaForte, CEO of Videll Healthcare, told The Eagle on Thursday that the transition has been relatively seamless, as all the employees are staying so "we can maintain the excellent quality of care at each."

LaForte and Videll Healthcare Vice President Cathy Mace made numerous visits to both Sugar Hill and Craneville Place in the past weeks. After speaking with various employees, vendors and community members, LaForte said the decision to take over was easy.

"Everyone spoke so highly of the facilities and the quality of each was so high the choice was easy for us," he said. "We're very impressed with the staffs and we want business as usual."

For someone on the outside, they might not even know a change has taken place, Mace said.

"We're not setting out to change anything," she said. "The last thing we want to do is alter the color and flavor of the facilities. They'll look and feel the same way, just have a new name."

The name won't change much either, she said. Each facility will simply have Videll Healthcare added to the beginning, making Sugar Hill, Videll Healthcare Sugar Hill, for example.

Although the company may be based in Seattle, LaForte said they'll be anything but absentee.

"We'll be spending a fair amount of time at each of the facilities to ensure the staff has the support they need without changing the models that have been so successful," he said. "We don't want to introduce change. We want to be part of the cooperative collaboration and make sure the facilities maintain the community-based values that we also hold."

To reach Josh Stilts:
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