Closed in 2021, the Island Nursing Home in Deer Isle is now considering other potential uses for the facility as the chances for reopening as a nursing home grow slimmer. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

A shuttered nursing home on Deer Isle has laid out its intention to reopen as a residential care facility next year.

The Island Nursing Home, which closed in 2021, is working to submit a reopening plan to state regulators by January. The home is eyeing a return as a 32-bed residential home with up to 20 employees, said Dan Cashman, a spokesperson for the Island Nursing Home.

When it was still running, the home was the only skilled nursing facility on the island and the next closest is about an hour’s drive away. The home sold the licenses for two-thirds of its beds in September to be able to help fund the residential plan.

Residential care facilities offer meals, medication, lodging and supervision while nursing facilities have those features, plus professional nurses on hand that can provide care or rehabilitation services for medically compromised people.

Many people in the community pushed for the home to keep skilled care, but the home said it’s impossible due to the lack of skilled nurses in Maine.

“The staffing just doesn’t exist for a skilled care nursing facility,” Cashman said.

The home has a self-imposed deadline of Dec. 1 to complete its reopening plan, which is due to the state on Jan. 13. That gives the board a grace period to make tweaks before it’s submitted.

The home’s current license expires at the end of February and an application must be submitted 45 days prior, said Jackie Farwell, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Reopening as a residential care facility still faces some high hurdles, chiefly housing.

Several towns in the region rank as some of the least affordable places to live in Maine, and before the nursing home closed, nearly 30 people declined job offers because they couldn’t find a place to live in the area.

The home still doesn’t have a firm grasp on much housing it would need for staff should it open as a residential facility, according to Cashman.

That’s due in part because the Island Nursing Home can’t interview potential employees before it attains a license from the state, he said. The home’s board is engaged in discrete conversations with potential applicants and is still continuing to nail down housing options around the island.

 “It is still going to be a challenge,” Cashman said, “but it can be met.”

Though many islanders wanted skill care in the mix, Marcia Myers, a member of a Stonington task force looking to help bolster the island’s health care options, said she’s happy to see that the home is working towards reopening in some capacity.

“I think it’s very encouraging they are moving forward and there is a plan to reopen,” she said.