Southaven facility owner promises change after man walks away from building, goes missing

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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — Southaven police have canceled an alert for a missing man with signs of dementia.

Authorities said Willie Barnes, 58, walked away from Omni Residential Living on Lacey Drive on Monday. He was reportedly headed toward the state line when he was last seen.

The Southaven Police Department was in the process of putting out a silver alert Tuesday when they say a nurse found him at a hospital in Whitehaven.

Police said he was in good condition. He’s now back in the facility.

“How did they walk away? Where did they go? I would be upset,” resident Andre Hill said.

We went to Omni Residential Living to ask those same questions. Employees wouldn’t answer the door, but the owner soon called to explain.

“The staff was walking to get everybody up that morning. His roommate said he went out the window. They took pictures of the window and called police to file a missing persons report,” owner Ragan Phillips said.

But even though they called police, state officials said they never called the Mississippi Department of Health. In fact, the state didn’t know about it until WREG called to find out about past inspections.

It turns out, the facility has only been open since December, and they’re operating on a provisional license. State officials say they’ve never been inspected, but this incident could affect their license to operate.

Phillips says they plan to make changes that includes adding alarms similar to the doors.

“There weren’t any buzzers on the windows. That’s something we’ll have to do going forward, because we would never think of an elderly person climbing out of a window,” she said.

But state officials say Omni Residential Living is licensed as a residential living facility, not as a nursing home, so they should expect residents of any age.

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