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DOJ Noted Democrat’s Help On Fort Bayard

Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Janice Arnold-Jones, during a TV debate Tuesday night, accused Michelle Lujan Grisham of standing by as secretary of health while residents of a state-run nursing home died as the result of patient abuse.

But the record shows Lujan Grisham, the Democratic candidate in the 1st District race, ultimately was complimented by the U.S. Department of Justice for helping to resolve problems at the troubled nursing home.

Lujan Grisham didn’t get an opportunity to respond to the Arnold-Jones’ allegation during the Tuesday night debate, but her campaign has cited Lujan Grisham’s intervention into the Fort Bayard nursing home case as an example of her ability to fix problems.

“As secretary of health, on her watch, people died in nursing homes at Fort Bayard,” Arnold-Jones said in her closing remarks in the KNME-TV debate.

Lujan Grisham could not respond during the debate because she had given her closing statement before Arnold-Jones raised the issue. Lujan Grisham spokesman Gilbert Gallegos on Wednesday declined to comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 investigated patient abuses believed to be factors in at least eight patient deaths at the state-run Fort Bayard nursing home near Silver City.

Lujan Grisham, who already been state aging secretary, was appointed secretary of health in 2004. Lujan Grisham has said she inherited the problems at the Fort Bayard facility, although she had held other state administrative roles affiliated with Fort Bayard since 1991.

“As secretary of health, she finally had the authority to do something about poorly run facilities, and took action at Fort Bayard, and 10 other facilities from 2004 to 2007,” Lujan Grisham’s campaign said in a statement earlier this year.

Lujan Grisham has said her administration welcomed the help of the DOJ in 2005 to identify problems during a six-month investigation that weren’t previously confirmed.

Four days after the DOJ in 2007 formally filed its lawsuit against New Mexico and Lujan Grisham regarding Fort Bayard conditions, the state Department of Health reached a settlement agreement over how to fix the problems.

By 2010, Fort Bayard had been shut down and reopened in a new facility. The Department of Justice, in a letter to then-Gov. Bill Richardson, praised Lujan Grisham for cooperating with its investigation and expediting state efforts to address problems.

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— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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