A car drives past Island Nursing Home on Route 15 in Deer Isle on Dec. 21, 2020. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

The recently closed Island Nursing Home on Deer Isle has hired a nonprofit to assess the facility’s viability to reopen.

The nursing home announced Monday that it had brought on Covenant Health, Inc, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, to conduct a three-month assessment of the facility.

The nursing home closed in October, after 40 years of serving the area because of staffing shortages. All 55 residents have been relocated.

The closure blindsided the community and there was a groundswell of support to reopen it. A community-led task force formed to help get the facility back up and running and recently identified the lack of housing in the area as a critical barrier. At one point, the nursing home had between 26 and 28 people decline job offers because they could not find housing in the area, Dodge said previously.

“The Nursing Home Task Force is about to release many good recommendations for how we might reopen the facility, and we’re on a short timeline due to our licensing,” said Ronda Dodge, the nursing home board chair, in a statement. “The next step, beginning immediately, is to work with this knowledgeable provider to check our assumptions and ensure we can reopen in a sustainable, long-term way.”

The nursing home’s current license has been voluntarily suspended. If the facility is not reopened before the license expires in 2023, the nursing home would need to reapply for a new license – a major obstacle. Any reopening would likely come in stages, officials previously said.

An initial assessment, reopening budget and staffing model are expected to be completed by the end of the month. After a review by the nursing home staff and board, recommendations will then be presented to the community by the end of January.

Task force spokesperson and State Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, said she was pleased to see the nursing home’s board of directors moving forward with the task force’s recommendations and engaging Covenant Health.

“This brings us one step closer to reopening this vital facility,” she said.