BOSTON (SHNS) – More than 80 lawmakers signed a letter Sen. John Velis circulated flagging concerns with plans for a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home facility, and one western Massachusetts legislator who was not among the group — Chicopee Rep. Joseph Wagner — sent his own letter back to Velis, outlining his reasons why.
Velis’ letter to Gov. Charlie Baker raised concerns that the plans call for a 192-bed facility, instead of the current 235, and asked the Baker administration to “allow input and opinions” from lawmakers as the effort proceeds. Wagner wrote that he does not share the point of view that the Legislature has been unable to provide input, noting that he, Velis and other lawmakers serve on a special oversight committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which has questioned Baker administration officials at hearings.
“Additionally, the Legislature will have the opportunity to discuss and debate, when filed by the Governor, the state matching authorization necessary to construct a new Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. We will also consider a series of reforms relating to the Home,” Wagner wrote, adding that he has been in a “continuous dialogue” with Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.
Wagner said the recommended number of beds for a new facility is “based on a comprehensive and data-driven analysis,” and that he believes any suggested increase in beds “should likewise be supported by a comprehensive and data-driven, rather than subjective, analysis.” He said it will be “important to have a robust dialogue which recognizes the entire spectrum of long term care services which are necessary to support our State’s veterans here in 2021 and into the future,” and that he looked forward to discussing the matters with Velis in greater detail.