Riverton in the running for new for state's VA nursing home

Jul 15, 2018 From Ranger staff reports

Riverton appears top be one of the cities under consideration as the site of the planned Veterans Administration skilled nursing facility.

Officials involved with the siting and design have scheduled meetings Tuesday in both Riverton and Lander to provide more information on the proposal and to seek local input.

The Riverton meeting is at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, in the Riverton City Council Chambers at 816 N. Federal Blvd.

In Lander, apparently also in the running, the informational meeting is at 6 p.m. in the chapel of the Wyoming Life Resource Center.

Riverton city administrator Tony Tolstedt noted that the City of Riverton has submitted a letter asking to be considered for the facility.

"We would appreciate (community) support in our efforts to provide information and support to those evaluating the applicants," Tolstedt wrote in an invitation to the public. He urged residents "to attend and help us show support for our community and the development of the facility in Riverton."

Essentially a full-care nursing home, the new facility would be the first of its kind in Wyoming, which has VA hospitals, clinics and residential care facilities but no full-service nursing home.

Establishing the skilled nursing center could enable veterans to take more full advantage of some of their VA health benefits in the state.

This week's meetings follow previous discussions with community members earlier in the year. This time, the gatherings are hosted by representatives from MOA Architecture, the firm contracted to design the nursing home. They are to be accompanied by members of the Wyoming Veterans Commis-sion, the Wyoming Department of Construction and the Wyoming Department of Health.

Public meetings on the project also serve to gather public input both on what the facility's mission should be and where the facility itself ought to be located, VA home study designers said in a presentation.

Other meetings this week are set for Cheyenne and Casper, and additional sites could be added to the schedule.

State would benefit

Steve Kravitsky, executive director of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, is prominent in the planning and informational effort statewide.

He said information gathered from past meetings supports the idea that Wyoming would benefit from the skilled nursing home.

"It would allow veterans to use a benefit they already have earned in the form of a (health care) per diem," Kravitsky told the Ranger in May. "If you are an honorably discharged veteran, there is a per diem to defray costs up to almost $40,000 per year in a veterans nursing facility."

The benefit stretches further for disabled veterans. Kravitsky said if a veteran demonstrates physical disability of 70 percent or higher, then the VA would pay the full costs of care.

Level 1 and 2

The Wyoming Legislature is involved as well, having approved $300,000 initial spending for Level 1 and Level 2 studies as stipulated by state regulations.

"We've asked the Legislature to allow us to build this facility," Kravitsky said.

In a Level 1 study, the economics and feasibility of a proposal are studied.

If need can be demonstrated, and a suitable economic model is confirmed, then Level 2 studies begin the process of identifying a site for the facility.

"At the conclusion of the Level 1 and Level 2 studies, we brief the state building department on the findings," Kravitsky said.

"Then we'll brief the (legislative) interim committee next fall, and the Legislature will either approve or reject Level 3 studies, which include construction and operational plans."

He said planners prefer a more "home-style feel" for the building, with a kitchen, living room and bedrooms that convey a sense of a home rather than an institution.

Public information meetings also have been held in Cody, Rock Springs, Thermopolis and Basin. Meetings in Cheyenne and Laramie also are expected, Kravitsky said.

None in Wyoming

The nursing home would be the first of its type in the state, although they are common in neighboring states.

Kravitsky said Colorado has five skilled nursing facilities for veterans, and Utah has four. Idaho has three, Montana two and South Dakota one.

Kravitsky said a common theme has emerged at the information sessions.

"At every public meeting we've done, we've been told 'You should build it here,'" he said.

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