On Tuesday, voters statewide will decide whether or not the state will borrow $94 million to renovate the existing Rhode Island Veterans Home on Metacom Avenue, as well as build a new facility to accommodate the growing number of returning and aging veterans in need of its services.
If approved, the project would consist of three phases over a 10 year period: The construction of a new 225 bed nursing home facility to replace the existing one; the construction of a new 75 bed assisted living facility; and the renovation of the current facility to provide accommodations for residents’ spouses, recreation, rehabilitation, and beds for homeless veterans.
Those who support the veterans home project report that 79 percent of the nearly 73,000 Rhode Island veterans qualify for the services offered by the RI Veterans Home. As with other segments of the population, aging veterans will suffer from dementia related illnesses requiring specialized care for them, as well as resources for their spouses. In addition, a growing number of veterans who served in the Middle East will have “special needs” due to post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury suffered during war time.
Representative Raymond Gallison, a staunch supporter of veterans groups, said that both new construction and renovations will address those long-term needs of returning veterans.
“Caring for them in a modern, up to date facility that is their home, that will be free from a leaking roof, free from drafts in the winter, has air conditioning in the summer, has private shower facilities, has wheelchair accessible bathrooms, has modern and better rehabilitative services is the least we can do when our veterans need our care,” he said.
Proponents said that the project will also help the local economy by bringing construction jobs to the area, as well as long term employment in the healthcare industry once the project is complete.
Other referendums on this year’s ballot include the authorization of casino games at two slot parlors, repair classrooms at Rhode Island College and invest in water quality, open space preservation and recreation facilities.