Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition to testify before state committee about management changes

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP)– Members of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition plan to address the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs about two bills (H.4195 and S.2582) regarding the state’s veterans homes.

The legislation before the committee would replace the Boards of Trustees at the two veterans’ homes and replace them with a powerless statewide advisory council. The Coalition will voice their opposition to this move at a virtual meeting being held on Friday.

The Coalition provides the following statement:

“We call on the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs to reject these two bills as currently crafted and to replace them with legislation that will receive the wide support and consensus of the Veteran community, and certainly the residents of western Massachusetts, who have suffered the greatest from the COVID-19 tragedy. Do not take away the one thing that has historically been the most positive element of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke – local community engagement and support through a shared governance model.”

In summary, the Coalition is advocating for the following governance and oversight reforms:

  • 1. Place the Holyoke and Chelsea veterans’ homes under the Department of Public Health;
  • 2. Maintain separate Boards of Trustees for Holyoke and Chelsea, thus allowing for local governance;
  • 3. Broaden the composition of the board to include members of the local municipal veterans’ services officers, members of congressionally chartered Veterans’ organizations and family members and residents of the two respective homes;
  • 4. Build a community-based and representative process in nominating members of the Trustees and let the Trustees select their chairperson, thereby insulating the boards from conflicts of interest and politicization;
  • 5. Allow the Board of Trustees to establish the budget requirements for the safe and efficient operation of the homes, to include staffing levels and to meet operational and maintenance requirements necessary to transition the homes to a small-house design and a person-directed model of care in anticipation of new long-term care facilities.

“Finally, the Coalition strongly advocates for the authority of each Board to hire (and terminate with cause if necessary) the superintendent of each Home and to evaluate the superintendent’s performance, in compliance with the Federal Code of Regulation.”

The virtual meeting of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs will be held Friday, November 19 beginning at 11am.

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