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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Reporter Debrief: Diving Into The Database Behind The 'Worse For Care' Investigation

screenshot of Vermont Eldercare Navigator search function, at eldercare.sevendaysvt.com
Screenshot of Vermont Eldercare Navigator
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The Vermont Eldercare Navigator allows users to search and view citations and inspections at specific eldercare homes around Vermont. Explore the database at eldercare.sevendaysvt.com.

A VPR and Seven Days investigation has uncovered instances of inadequate care, neglect and five untimely deaths at Vermont’s assisted living and residential care homes. Behind that joint reporting is a database of inspection reports and citations that took months to build.

That database, and the accompanying website that allows anyone to search citations and inspections at specific eldercare homes, was built by Seven Days data editor Andrea Suozzo.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke to Andrea Suozzo of Seven Days about the Vermont Eldercare Navigator. Listen to their conversation above.

Suozzo said she got interested in requesting records from the state around residential care homes after a group of facilities was put under state receivership in November 2018.

"It really got me wondering about what the scope of this system was," Suozzo said, "and what was happening on the regulatory side."

Andrea Suozzo, Seven Days stands in front of a brick wall
Credit Henry Epp / VPR
'Seven Days' data editor Andrea Suozzo created the Eldercare Navigator as part of the 'Worse For Care' investigation between the newspaper and VPR.

Suozzo began making public records requests early this year, and it then took reporters and editors at VPR and Seven Days months to comb through the records from the state.

"The complaint records that we got were in some places heavily redacted," Suozzo said, "but did give us a lot of stories to work on, and let us pick out the trends that were happening across the industry."

Records were compiled into a database that not only informed the reporting for the two news organizations' "Worse for Care" series, but also serves as the basis for a searchable navigator tool.

That Vermont Eldercare Navigator enables people to view inspection reports and citations at eldercare homes around the state.

According to Suozzo, users can see whether homes have complied with state regulations over the past five years — but Suozzo also cautions that this information doesn't tell a complete story about any individual home.

"There are many, many things that go into whether a place is a good place to live," Suozzo said, "but this is data that the state has that was extremely hard to find before, and so we want people to be able to be informed consumers and find out what the citations were for, how many there have been, how severe they were."

Looking for info about a specific home? Find the Vermont Eldercare Navigator here.

A thin grey line.
A logo that says "Worse For Care: Vermont's Elder Homes Struggle To Keep Seniors Safe."

“Worse for Care” is a joint investigation by Vermont Public Radio and Seven Days into assisted living and residential care homes for the elderly. In addition to publishing stories over four weeks, we’ve launched the Vermont Elder Care Navigator, a searchable database at eldercare.sevendaysvt.com.

It was produced by: at VPR — Emily Corwin, reporter; Mark Davis, editor; and at Seven Days — Derek Brouwer, reporter; Andrea Suozzo, data editor; Matthew Roy and Candace Page, editors; and James Buck, photographer.

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