BOSTON (WWLP) – The Baker-Polito Administration on Thursday filed a bill that would provide millions of dollars in capital for a major project to reconstruct the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
The “An Act Financing the Reconstruction of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke,” bill would provide $400 million for the reconstruction project. It will allow the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to construct a new long-term care facility on the site of the current Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that would meet the needs of the veterans of western Massachusetts and their families.
The new facility is expected to include 237 beds for veteran residents with private rooms and bathrooms.
“Building a new, state-of-the-art long-term care facility at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke will ensure we can continue providing quality care for current veterans residing at the Home, as well as future residents,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to pass this bill so that we can transform the future of the Home, meet the next major deadline in the capital project, and continue to secure funding from our federal partners at the Veterans’ Administration.”
The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home project is on an expedited timeline, necessitated by the April 15 deadline for the VA State Home Construction Grant Program, which would provide 65 percent matching federal funds, the Baker-Polito admin said.
“This is the most momentous action for our veterans that our Commonwealth has made in many years,” John Paradis of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition said.
Nearly 80 veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home died due to COVID-19 in the spring and summer months of 2020. Almost a year later, the Baker-Polito administration announced the $400 million bond bill that will go toward the construction of a new long-term care facility. An announcement that generated a lot of excitement and emotion from Paradis.
“The news that came out today was an emotional one for us,” Paradis said. “It’s heartwarming for us in the veteran community to see that the legislature and the trustees worked together with us to make this day possible.”
The administration added that in order to meet that deadline, DCAMM must have the authorization available by April 1, 2021. It would require the bond bill to be enacted by mid-March, with a terms bill filed and enacted soon afterward.
“The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke is a unique and special place in the community, and the Baker-Polito Administration is working diligently in partnership with our colleagues in the Legislature to ensure its future ability to serve the next generation of veterans,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “This expedited capital project for the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke provides an exciting opportunity to provide a state-of-the-art long-term care facility to meet the needs of our veterans in the coming years and to ensure that they are aligned with anticipated demand.”
The design development phase must be completed by August 1, 2021, to be eligible for this cycle of the grant program.
A design that Senator John Velis said will have an emphasis on and the behavioral and physical health needs of current and prospective veterans.
“We see this with our veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan, 30 we see multiple amputees, issues like PTSD and traumatic brain injury, so many issues that we are seeing in these recent conflicts,’ Velis said. “The new facility must take into account all of the injuries that service members and veterans have sustained in a lot of these conflicts.”
Velis added, “We believe when it’s built, it’ll be one of the best in our nation because that’s what our veterans earned and what they deserve.”
“The current Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke was constructed before modern design standards for medical facilities, and the Administration has taken immediate steps to address urgent capital and infection control needs, but it is clear that a major reconstruction of the campus is necessary for the safety, health, and comfort of future generations of veterans and staff,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. “We are pleased that the planning process involved significant opportunity for community and stakeholder input into the plan’s development to date.”
Veterans’ Services Secretary Cheryl Lussier Poppe said in a statement that the filing of this bond bill to secure funding is one more step in the construction of a new state-of-the-art Soldiers’ Home and a sign of hope and progress as the state moves forward to care for aging veterans with dignity, honor, and respect in western Massachusetts.
Pope added, “We look forward to continuing our expeditious efforts with DCAMM, Payette, EOHHS, the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, and community partners including the Board of Trustees, to complete this process.”
State lawmakers must pass this bill during the month of March in order to be eligible for federal funding.