M. JODI RELL – ‘Changing needs’

Federal grant funds totaling almost $22 million, and more than $9 million from the state of Connecticut, will result in a slew of positive changes for veterans who depend on a Rocky Hill care facility.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced last week that the federal money would be available for the construction of a new 125-bed facility and infrastructure improvements at the State Veterans Home in Rocky Hill. Most of the buildings there are nearly 70 years old and have no air conditioning.

According to the governor’s spokesman, John Wiltse, the construction will not represent an increase in the number of veterans who are served by the facility. The current patients will be moved into the new building when it is completed in 2008, he said.

The eventual cost of the new health care facility is $33.8 million, according to information from the governor’s office. Construction on the building will break ground this summer. The new, 87,000-square-foot health care facility will be the first new construction at the Rocky Hill campus in 65 years, and will have five residential wards designed to provide flexible levels of care while offering veterans as much privacy as possible. It also will include a 25-bed dedicated Alz-heimer’s unit, which will have its own dining room and a private courtyard. Each ward will have a hospice room and will have an occupational/physical therapy department, a pharmacy, a library and a chapel.

“Our veterans deserve a state-of-the-art, dignified facility where they can receive the help they need – and we are now able to build it for them,” Rell said in a prepared statement. “This residential facility will open a brand new chapter in our care of veterans in Connecticut. We will now be positioned to better care for the changing needs of our veterans. As big as this project is, it is just one small way we can repay Connecticut’s veterans for the sacrifices they have made to our country and state.”

Rell proposed the $8.8 million in required state matching funds in March and the State Bond Commission approved the funding later that month. The state has committed $9.2 million in new state funding for the project.

“I was pleased earlier this year when Gov. Rell announced that state funding would be available for the hospital,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., in a prepared statement. “We were able to leverage that state money to secure the federal funds necessary to make the much-needed improvements to the home. The facility is nearly 70 years old and today is another milestone in our effort to refurbish it. After all, our veterans gave America first-class service and now it’s our turn to provide them with first-class care.”

‘Forever Grateful’

The state also recently received federal grant funding to move forward with a $4.6 million project to replace the current water loop system on the Rocky Hill campus that serves all buildings housing veterans. The new design will be a two-pipe system with one loop carrying domestic water and one loop carrying fire suppression water. A new, state-of-the-art 250,000-gallon water tower also will be installed as part of the project. The buildings on the campus have experienced numerous breaks in the water system over the past five years. Water service to the veterans’ rooms and care wards has been periodically suspended for days, requiring staff “bucket brigades” to hand-carry water throughout the campus.

The State Veterans Home houses 476 veterans between the ages of 23 and 95. Veterans at the home have served in all major conflicts dating back to World War II. The facility provides inpatient and outpatient care and support programs.

“This is a huge win for Connecticut’s veterans and for the Veterans’ Home in Rocky Hill,” said U.S. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, R-Conn., in a prepared statement. “Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedom, and we owe them a great debt. This federal grant will help fund the construction of the new, modern health care facility that our veterans deserve. I thank Gov. Rell and [U.S.] Secretary [of Veterans Affairs R. James] Nicholson for their leadership on behalf of Connecticut veterans.”

Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation were essential in securing the funding, Rell said.

“I would like to recognize and commend the perseverance of all the members of our congressional delegation, their staffs and [Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs] Commissioner [Linda S.] Schwartz in securing this essential federal funding and finalizing these visionary plans on behalf of our veterans,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Generations of Connecticut veterans will be forever grateful for their tireless advocacy on their behalf.

“We deeply appreciate the dedicated technical support and assistance from Secretary Nicholson’s office that is making this long overdue project a reality,” Rell added. “The VA’s proactive support of state veterans programs and facilities that complement their own network of care is greatly enhancing services for our growing population of veterans.”