A deteriorating state-run retirement home for veterans could receive much-needed help.
The New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequence was one of seven residential health care facilities highlighted in a scathing legislative report in September that said it was in such bad shape. state that the health and lives of its residents were in danger. The home, which opened in the mid-1980s and is home to more than 100 military veterans, is housed in a 1930s Works Progress Administration building that a lawmaker called a “mess” when a public meeting on the report.
The Legislature has allocated $40 million to ‘plan, design, furnish and modernize’ the home – but the money rests with the state Department of Health, which oversees the facility, receiving matching federal funds for the project.
Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said the state is “almost assured” of receiving funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She said the $40 million credit “is probably the biggest capital expenditure we’ve had this year, primarily because it’s a facility that hasn’t received the necessary upkeep and upkeep.” .
Some of the money will go towards upgrading the current facility, she added, and some will go towards new infrastructure.
Katy Diffendorfer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, wrote in an email Tuesday that her agency had applied for funds through the federal Veterans Home Building Grant program. ‘state of VA at the end of last year. “Receiving the grant will result in reimbursement of 65% of the state’s costs to update the facilities,” she wrote.
She said the state Department of General Services “is in the process of selecting a design firm for the new construction and we continue to plan to innovate later this year.”
State officials gave lawmakers on the Legislative Finance Committee an update on structural issues at the facility last year. Among the issues:
- Unstable compaction of the ground under the foundation, which causes cracks in the ground and tripping hazards.
- HVAC issues.
- Faulty pumps in the rehabilitation pool.
- Deterioration of the stone facade.
Rep. Harry Garcia, D-Grants, said he toured the facility late last year. “I wasn’t very happy about that,” he said. “The structure is so outdated, it’s sad to watch. Our veterans deserve better.
Garcia, a Navy veteran, said if the Health Department “moves forward” on the federal matching grant proposal, there should be “no problem” investing in improvements.
The home provides care for honorably discharged veterans and a limited number of spouses, Gold Star relatives, and other non-veterans. It has 145 beds and averaged 109 residents between July 2019 and December 2020, according to a May report.
The September report to the Legislative Finance Committee noted a number of administrative issues at home that could have been avoided with better oversight.
A COVID-19 outbreak claimed 28 lives between October and December 2020. Data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also shows the home received 60 citations for health and safety deficiencies between 2015 and 2020, resulting in over $180 million in penalties.
Garcia said state officials are addressing those issues.
The home’s former administrator, Juliet Sullivan, was placed on administrative leave in December 2020 following an investigation into whether the facility was following COVID-19 safety practices. George Morgan, director of the state’s Office of Facilities Management, served as the home’s acting manager until November, when Angela York was named chief administrator.
York did not return a call seeking comment.
Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, an Air Force veteran, said the house likely needed more than $100 million of work.
State and federal funds, he added, “will help bring it up to date.”