Herald-Whig View

Veterans Home moving along with big changes

Posted: Jul. 7, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Jul. 7, 2018 11:45 pm

ANOTHER significant step is being taken in ongoing efforts by the state of Illinois and federal agencies to modernize and rehabilitate the Illinois Veterans Home campus in Quincy to ensure the comfort and care of residents living there.

The state last month acquired the former Sycamore Healthcare Center building, a facility that will initially be a temporary housing site for up to 160 Veterans Home residents during demolition and construction work on the 210-acre campus, which state officials hope will begin as early as this fall.

This is notable because it comes soon after passage of a state budget May 31 that included $53 million for the first installment on what is expected to be between $200 million and $240 million in new construction at the Veterans Home, which has been plagued by multiple outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease since 2015.

We applaud the swiftness of obtaining Sycamore Healthcare Center, which closed in April 2017, a victim of Medicaid funding cuts instituted in 2015 and a state budget impasse that lasted two years before a full budget was approved last year.

The skilled nursing facility at 720 Sycamore has more than 26,000 square feet of space, 102 rooms and was licensed for 205 beds when it closed. The state bought the facility for a discounted price from DLZ Capital of New York, which had bought it out of foreclosure.

The purchase is appealing primarily because of the facility's proximity to the Veterans Home. Moving residents two blocks from the main campus will be less physically taxing, while also enabling those residents access to vital services and activities at the Veterans Home during the transition.

Importantly, the former Sycamore property has long-term potential. It could be used as a mental health facility or to house homeless veterans once the state completes work on the planned 250- to 300-bed nursing care building and new water distribution plumbing loop at the Veterans Home.

Moreover, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is contributing $3 million toward a new $6 million water source for the city of Quincy as part of the plan for the new water distribution system at the Veterans Home.

That move is being made after more than $6.4 million in upgrades, with state and federal funds, were made to the home's water purification system after a Legionnaires' disease outbreak claimed 12 lives and sickened more than 50 others in 2015.

Despite those efforts, Legionella bacteria has reappeared each year since the initial outbreak. And while medical officials have not blamed any of the outbreaks on water distributed by the city, they have encouraged a safer source for city water.

All of these are positive, constructive developments.

Maintaining this momentum is vital as the state secures the future of the state's largest and oldest veterans home. And all decisions must be made with the current and future residents in mind.

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