Throughout the transition, he was under heavy scrutiny by sheriffs deputies, who he said were skeptical he could tame the facility. Just a year before he bought the home, police had arrested a staff worker for striking an elderly woman in the face.
When Coffey called deputies shortly after he took over to report that one resident had injured another, he said officers turned their interrogation on him.
I was having to try to prove that Im a different person, he said.
Within a year, the changes were taking root: Violations found by state regulators dropped dramatically, from 34 in 2006 to just two a year later, state records show.
Over time, he said he developed a network of specialists, including a psychologist, doctor and psychiatric nurse to come to the facility at least once a week.
He stopped accepting people with substance-abuse problems and certain types of psychiatric disorders whom he didnt have the ability to care for.
If we take someone in thats not in our scope, thats not good for me or them, he said. The same with staff members: He said he loses 40 percent of all applicants through criminal background checks.
After his second year, he said he finally felt he had the right mix of people and staff to believe the home was going to stay open.
We had the head turned around, he said.
To this day, Coffey said he believes one of the big differences in improving the facility was a new policy of not accepting every resident, even when rooms were vacant.
Too many owners fail to screen residents because the homes are guaranteed money from the state including an average of $674 a month from Social Security and a daily stipend of $9.28 for residents with mental illness, Coffey said.
That kind of warehousing is dangerous, he said. A lot of caregivers forget that that persons life is their responsibility.
Coffey said he tries to spend time with the residents, so he is able to recognize changes in their behavior signs that a mental crisis may be brewing. Mental health is a different beast, he said.
He also has to spend time with his employees to know how theyre interacting with the residents. There is no way I could do this without my staff, he said.
On a recent afternoon, he made his way to the dining room, where Starla Kennedy was dispensing medications, checking with her on the most recent prescriptions for a resident. Before Coffey took over, Kennedy said she dreaded coming to the facility.
I hated it. I did not like to show up here, said Kennedy, a registered nurse who works for a state-funded mental health team. It was dirty, it was awful.
Now they get their meds, she said.
For Rodney Cochran, the home offers a shelter hes never known before. The 34-year-old, who has lived at six other ALFs, said Coffeys approach to him and others puts him at ease. This is the best [home] Ive ever lived in, said Cochran, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
By late afternoon, Coffey was back in his office. Amid a flurry of phone calls with staff and vendors, he pulled out a plastic bag full of candy.
Passing out the sweets throughout the day, Coffey said, can sometimes reverse the mood of an angry resident before it impacts others. It costs about $20 a week, he said.
They dont have anything, he said. They come here with a Hefty bag thats if theyre lucky.
Things arent perfect at the home. Over the years, Coffey has been cited for minor problems, including dirty floors, torn seat covers and broken furniture.
But since he took over, he has averaged just four citations a year less than a quarter of the homes record under Anderson.
Also down: emergency hospitalizations of residents suffering psychiatric breakdowns, as well as police and emergency calls to the home, said Diane Carpenter, regional manager of the state Department of Elder Affairs ombudsman program.
Hes making the changes to correct the issues, Carpenter said. When the residents are telling you they are no longer afraid, that speaks a lot.