Wyoming may build a new retirement facility for veterans that would provide more medical care than currently offered at the state veterans assisted living facility. The retirement home is still in the planning process but the Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee has been discussing the proposal over the last year and will hear more presentations at its meeting next week in Thermopolis.
The Wyoming Veterans Commission is behind the latest round of interest in a nursing home for veterans, though the idea has been discussed for several years, said Stefan Johansson, policy administrator at the state Department of Health.
The Veterans Commission has proposed building the facility in Sheridan to take advantage of the Veterans Affairs hospital there as well as a local retirement home that uses the Green House model, which the commissioner is recommending for the retirement home.
The Green House model focuses on moving away from an institutional setting in nursing homes and emphasizes a home-based atmosphere through architecture and the daily schedules of residents. Green House Living for Sheridan already uses the model.
“They’d be looking to leverage that experience,” Johansson said.
Representatives from the Veterans Commission were unavailable to comment.
According to documents submitted to the Legislature, the 24-unit nursing home would cost $5.78 million and could open within five years. Federal grants would be used to cover some of the cost of construction and operation.
The state currently operates the Veterans Home of Wyoming in Buffalo, and Johansson said lawmakers previously considered adding a nursing home onto that facility before determining doing so would be too expensive.
The Veterans Home is an assisted-living facility, meaning residents generally need to be able to move independently. A nursing home provides more medical care and attention.
An analysis by the Department of Health found that the number of veterans needing skilled nursing care was going to drop by 2030 and that the nursing home market in Wyoming is already weak, with occupancy rates having dropped since the mid-1990s.
However, the department determined that a veterans nursing home could succeed both because the Green House model is innovative enough to stand out in a crowded market and because federal subsidies would make the nursing home cost competitive.
Johansson said that because planning was still in the relatively early stages it was not clear where the home would be located if approved by the Legislature, nor whether the Department of Health would operate the facility or whether it would be contracted to a private third-party.