The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the construction of two new nursing homes for veterans in Flagstaff and Yuma.
Each nursing home will have 80 beds available to aging veterans, a memory care unit, rehabilitation centers and veteran benefit counseling. They will be designed as neighborhoods, allowing veterans to commune and build relationships.
Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, says Veterans Affairs has been providing much more support to rural veterans. She says there was a study done years ago to determine how many beds would be required in a new home. They found about 1,500 aging veterans who would be in need of a nursing home.
“The VA recognizes that we need these skilled nursing homes, and they are actually funding them so we can support our veterans,” Wright says.
The nursing home takes care of a variety of challenges that would make it difficult for a family to take care of the patient at home. Those challenges include issues with dementia, Alzheimer’s, lost limbs and ALS, among other situations.
“There’s rec therapy, occupational therapy and short-term therapy in some cases when we can allow our residents to get back home if we can,” Wright says.
Another part of the nursing home is the veteran benefit counseling offered. There are currently veteran benefit counselors stationed at both the Phoenix and Tuscon locations, and the same is planned for the new sites. Wright says the counselors are able to keep tabs on the veterans and make sure they are being given the support they are supposed to have.
Not only will the nursing homes benefit veterans, but it will also aid the economic development in both Flagstaff and Yuma. Wright says between the two locations there will be about 250 additional positions to be filled with state employees.
The state of the new nursing homes is still in the design period, which Wright says will take eight to 10 months to complete. It’s expected that doors will open by the end of 2020.
TED SIMONS: THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN'S AFFAIRS RECENTLY GAVE THE GO AHEADS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF TWO NEW NURSING HOMES FOR VETS IN ARIZONA WITH A FOCUS ON VETERANS IN RURAL PARTS OF THE STATE. FOR MORE ON THIS, WE WELCOME WANDA WRIGHT, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN SERVICES DIRECTOR. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, THANKS FOR JOINING US.
WANDA WRIGHT: THANK YOU, TED.
TED SIMONS: OKAY SO WE GOT NURSING HOMES, GREEN LIGHT HERE ONE IN FLAGSTAFF ONE IN YUMA, CORRECT?
WANDA WRIGHT: YES. THE V.A. HAS BEEN SUPPORTING OUR RURAL VETERANS. THROUGH THE LAST OMNIBUS THAT WAS PASSED, THE V.A. WAS ABLE TO CLEAN UP THE LIST FOR ALL VETERAN HOME CONSTRUCTION. ACROSS THE NATION, THEY'LL BEGIN BUILDING NEW STATE VETERAN HOMES.
TED SIMONS: WHY FLAGSTAFF AND YUMA?
WANDA WRIGHT: THEY ARE RURAL AREAS. THE STUDY WAS DONE YEARS AGO TO DETERMINE HOW MANY BEDS WOULD BE REQUIRED FOR OUR AGING VETERANS. THE NUMBER WAS A LITTLE OVER 1500. AS WE CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE STATE, THE V.A. RECOGNIZES WE NEED THESE SKILLED NURSING HOMES. AND THEY ARE ACTUALLY FUNDING THEM TO SUPPORT OUR VETERANS.
TED SIMONS: AND LOOKING IN TO THIS, THESE ARE FOUR LONG TERM CARE UNITS WITH 16 BEDS EACH. THERE’S A MEMORY CARE UNIT, I BELIEVE IN EACH HOSPITAL CORRECTT?
WANDA WRIGHT: YES THAT IS CORRECT, THE MODEL IS FOR NEIGHBORHOODS. 16 ROOMS IN EACH NEIGHBORHOOD. IT ALLOWS VETERANS TO COMMUNE. THIS IS THEIR HOME, PROBABLY WHERE THEY'LL BE THE REST OF THEIR LIFE. AND WE DO HAVE AN ALZHEIMER'S DEMENTIA WING WHICH WE HAVE SPECIAL CARE FOR VETERANS THAT NEED THAT EXTRA SPECIAL CARE.
TED SIMONS: 24-7 SKILLED NURSING FOR, GERIATRIC CARE, THE CHRONICALLY ILL, WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
WANDA WRIGHT: IT’S EVERYTHING THAT MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR VETERANS. IT CAN BE DEMENTIA, IT COULD BE ALZHEIMERS, IT CAN BE LOST LIMBS, IT CAN BE ALS, IT CAN BE ANYTHING THAT REALLY MAKES IT HARD FOR FAMILIES TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR VETERANS.
TED SIMONS: AND AS FAR AS SERVICE, IS THERE THERAPUTIC REHABILITATION
WANDA WRIGHT: WE HAVE REHABILITATION, SO THERE IS REC THERAPY, THERE IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY, WE EVEN HAVE SHORT TERM THERAPY. IN SOME CASES, WE CAN ALLOW OUR RESIDENTS TO GET BACK HOME WHEN THEY CAN.
TED SIMONS: AND I NOTICE, AND THIS IS A BIGGIE, YOU HAVE COUNSELORS ON THERE TO HELP FOLKS WITH STATE AND FEDERAL BENEFITS.
WANDA WRIGHT: WE DO. PART OF OUR VETERAN BENEFIT COUNSELING SYSTEM. WE HAVE COUNSELORS STATIONED AT BOTH OF THE HOMES WE HAVE CURRENTLY, THE ONE IN PHOENIX AND TUCSON. AS WE GROW, AND EXPAND TO YUMA AND FLAGSTAFF THE SAME WILL OCCUR. IT'S A NICE FEATURE BECAUSE AS THE VETERANS GROW OLDER IN OUR STATE HOMES, THEY REQUIRE MORE ASSISTANCE. THEY CAN KEEP TABS ON THEM AND CONTINUE TO GIVE THEM MORE SUPPORT.
TED SIMONS: IT SEEMS IT WOULD BE HEARTBREAKING TO KNOW YOU COULD GET THESE SERVICES IN SOME WAY, SHAPE, OR MORE OF THE SERVICES AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT. SO WITH THE COUNSELERS THERE, THAT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL.
WANDA WRIGHT: IT IS. THEY REVIEW THEIR RECORDS AND THEY MAKE SURE THEY HAVE ALL THE SERVICES AND BENEFITS THEY REQUIRE AT THE TIME AND KEEP UP WITH IT AS THEY AGE.
TED SIMONS: NOW, CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG BUT DO DEPENDENTS AND SURVIVING SPOUSES QUALIFY FOR THESE HOMES, IS THAT TRUE?
WANDA WRIGHT: THAT'S CORRECT. WE HAVE, IN FACT, TWO YEARS AGO, WE HAD A MARRIED COUPLE THAT GOT MARRIED IN THE HOME IN PHOENIX. THEY ARE STILL THERE TODAY, THE FIRST WEDDING EVER AT ONE OF OUR STATE HOMES. SO IT DOES, TITLE 38 ALLOWS FOR WIDOWS AND SOME DEPENDENTS DEPENDING ON THEIR CAPACITY TO ALSO STAY AT THE STATE HOME.
TED SIMONS: HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE NEEDED? HOW MANY JOBS ARE WE TALING ABOUT? WHAT KIND OF JOBS?
WANDA WRIGHT: WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ALL KINDS OF CLINICAL JOBS. WHAT'S GREAT, I THINK, THE SILVER LINING OF HELPING OUR VETERANS IS THAT WE ALSO SUPPORT THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN BOTH CITIES. WE ESTIMATE BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM, ABOUT 250 ADDITIONAL POSITIONS TO BE FILLED AS STATE EMPLOYEES. THAT'S REALLY GREAT. YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO HELP ECONOMIC BASE IN THE AREAS, PLUS, EACH HOME WILL HAVE 80 BEDS. THAT ALLOWS FAMILIES ALSO TO PARTICIPATE, AND IT ALSO ALLOWS THE COMMUNITY TO PARTICIPATE. I THINK IT'S GREAT THAT WE ARE HELPING THAT TO HAPPEN.
TED SIMONS: AGAIN, THE GRANT PROGRAM, I IMAGINE -- HOW MUCH IN CONSTRUCTION COSTS? MOST OF THIS COMES FROM THE FEDS. TRUE?
WANDA WRIGHT: 65%. WHEN WE APPLY FOR THE GRANT, THE CITY HAS TO HAVE DEEDED US THE LAND, AND WE ALSO HAVE TO HAVE A MATCHING 35% FROM THE STATE. I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SHOUT OUT TO OUR LEGISLATURE FOR INITIALLY GIVING US THE MONEY FOR BOTH OF THOSE AREAS, AND ALSO FOR EACH OF THOSE CITIES TO DEED US THE LAND, AND THEN BECAUSE WE CHANGE THE MODEL FROM 60 BEDS TO 80 BEDS, THE LEGISLATURE JUMPED IN AT THIS SESSION AND GAVE US 4,000,000 PER HOME IN ORDER FOR US TO EXPAND IT.
TED SIMONS: I WOULD THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE FEW THINGS MOST LAWMAKERS WOULD AGREE ON. HERE IN ARIZONA, CONGRATULATIONS.
WANDA WRIGHT: THANK YOU VERY MUCH. WE ARE SO HAPPY THIS IS HAPPENING.
TED SIMONS: AND REAL QUICKLY, CONSTRUCTION STARTS WHEN?
WANDA WRIGHT: WE ARE IN DESIGN NOW. WE HAVE FINISHED GOING THROUGH THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS TO PICK AN ARCHITECT TO DESIGN. WE EXPECT DESIGN TO TAKE EIGHT TO TEN MONTHS AND WE'LL BEGIN CONSTRUCTION.
TED SIMONS: AND WE SHOULD SEE DOORS OPEN WHEN?
WANDA WRIGHT: PROBABLY CLOSE TO END OF 2020, I’M THINKING
TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, HOW BIG A DEAL IS THIS BECAUSE OF THE RURAL NATURE OF THESE HOMES?
WANDA WRIGHT: I FEEL LIKE IT'S A HUGE DEAL. THIS IS WHY, WE HAVE 20 SUICIDES A DAY. THE V.A. SEES ABOUT SIX OF THOSE. THAT MEANS 14 ARE IN THE COMMUNITY. PER OUR VIOLENT DEATH SURVEY, MOST OF THOSE DEATHS OCCUR PER CAPITA IN THE RURAL AREAS. IF WE HAVE A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM AVAILABLE TO FAMILIES TO TALK TO, VETERANS TO TALK TO AND BE REFERRED TO THE V.A. HOSPITAL AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTHCARE TAKERS, THAT WILL BE SUPPORTIVE TO THEM.
TED SIMONS: WELL THAT'S GREAT NEWS. WANDA WRIGHT, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN SERVICES, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
WANDA WRIGHT: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE TIME.
Wanda Wright: Director, Arizona Department of Veterans Services