WARREN — A northeast Ohio veterans advocacy group is pushing the state government to open at least two new state-run retirement homes for veterans, including one in the northern part -east of the state.
Veterans Service Commission chairmen from nine northeastern Ohio counties, including Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana, wrote a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine saying some Ohio veterans are “geographically underserved.” by the state’s two veterans homes. Ohio now operates two such facilities: the historic Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky, built in the late 19th century to serve the state’s Civil War veterans, and the facility of Georgetown, in southwestern Ohio.
“Northeast Ohio is home to more than 200,000 veterans, making it the largest veteran-populated region in the state,” the letter said. “On average, most Northeast and Central Ohio veterans are more than 100 miles from the nearest home facility for their veterans.”
According to Herm Breuer, executive director of Trumbull County Veterans Services, a down payment for a new facility could be subsidized by the federal government.
The money is there because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs supported funding applications for the new construction of 19 veterans’ homes in 13 states in 2019.
“The trick to this equation is that it will take state money to run these homes and find the medical staff to serve the residents,” Breuer said.
That’s where a recent piece of legislation that allows some of the state’s sports betting proceeds offers hope, Breuer said.
“Hopefully the game money can be put to good use,” he said.
A recent press release from a sports betting watchdog group, Play Ohio, estimated that veterans services could generate up to $350,000 in gambling revenue over the next five years.
Susan Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veterans Services Office, said her office has been involved in discussions with other veterans’ advocacy groups about building a new home closer to Mahoning Counties. and Trumbull.
“More veterans I spoke to would choose to live in a veterans home if it was closer to us,” Krawchyk said. “Family members would be closer to the veteran to visit him regularly, and we all hope to see this dream come true.
“Now is the time to care for our aging veterans in their final years of life. We owe it to them and their families. ”
The letter to DeWine states that it is “a travesty” that Ohio finds itself in the situation where it has been nationally ranked as having “significant need” for veterans’ homes.
The Sandusky facility has 427 beds, while Georgetown is a 168-bed home.
The advocates in their letter call for the construction of two new homes, including one to serve central Ohio, which provide nursing, home care and adult day health care under one roof.
Breuer said a 2019 state study showed the ideal situation would be 10 smaller facilities in the state, including those that could provide “adult child care” for those who want to babysit a parent or child. grandparent at home, but can send them somewhere while they are at work.
Breuer and the letter point out that there are plots of land in the area owned by the state that could be “a convenient yet profitable location” for a new home – such as the area near Northeast Ohio Medical University. in Rootstown and land near Camp Garfield in Paris Township, both in Portage County.
Last week, a member of DeWine’s cabinet, Deborah Ashenhurst, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, testified before the Ohio House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee, citing the need for homes supplements for veterans. She made almost the same statements last month before the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation.
Ashenhurst, in response to state Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, acknowledged that the state is failing to meet the needs of “the veteran community and their families in particular” by not having homes in higher density urban areas. Ashenhurst said she understands why the two existing homes have been placed in low-population areas, one of the reasons being that it could be difficult to compete for medical workers if the homes are closer to major hospital systems. .
“But a lot of people don’t want to put a family member where they can’t visit them frequently,” she said.
Advocates, which also include representatives from Ashtabula, Geauga, Portage, Lake, Medina and Stark counties, in concluding their letter to DeWine, say they hope budgetary concerns or labor issues do not should not be the priority when considering two new homes for veterans in Ohio.
“While it may be too little too late for WWII and maybe even Korean War veterans, there is still time to support and help Vietnam War veterans and Persian Gulf with a project like this,” the letter concludes.