First Skilled Nursing Facility for Veterans In Wyoming Opens in Buffalo, Despite Location Controversy
Governor Gordon celebrated the opening of Wyoming's first skilled nursing facility for Veterans on Thursday, participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly-constructed Veterans Home of Wyoming.
The facility was constructed in Buffalo, Wyoming after a tense back-and-forth between lawmakers in 2019.
In February of 2019, Tom Morton with K2 Radio News reported that the Wyoming Senate voted on a third reading to construct the Veterans Home of Wyoming in Buffalo, Wyoming. instead of Casper.
"The Senate voted 24-6 on House Bill 82 to put the approximately $23 million, 36-bed facility in Buffalo despite arguments from health care professionals in Casper and Buffalo saying Casper has the largest hospital in the state and the nurses and other personnel who could staff it," Morton wrote.
That same month, a week previous, the Senate Transportation, Highway, and Military Affairs Committee voted to construct the facility in Casper, but the Senate overrode the committee's decision, and voted to keep it in Buffalo.
Finally, Governor Mark Gordon, who is from Buffalo, had the final say and he chose his hometown as the site.
Regardless of the location, however, the facility has been praised as a much-needed venue for Wyoming veterans.
As the first skilled nursing facility that's dedicated to veterans in Wyoming, the Veterans Home of Wyoming will provide long-term care to veterans, their spouses, and Gold Star families.
According to a press release sent by the Governor's office, this is a state-of-the-art facility that is based on the Green House concept. It includes three cottages, which accommodate 12 veterans per cottage. In total, this facility will be able to provide care to 36 veterans and eligible family members.
The release noted that the Veterans Home of Wyoming is owned and operated by the state of Wyoming, and is the result of a partnership between the Wyoming's Veteran Commission, the State of Wyoming, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
According to the release, the VA provided 65 percent of the funding, while the Wyoming Legislature, supported by Governor Gordon, provided the 35 percent matching portion.
"By leveraging both VA and Medicaid reimbursements, the state can offer lower-cost private pay rates to veterans who may reside at the facility," the release stated.
Senator Jim Anderson told K2 Radio News that the loan from Wyoming's share of the project totals close to $9 million, which must be repaid by fees from the patients, which come from the VA for each patient in the facility.
"If you're going to repay the loan, you're going to have a full-skilled nursing facility," Anderson said. "If you have 36 beds, you need 36 people in it. If it's less than 36, they may not be able to accommodate the loan, and pay the loan back."
If Buffalo is unable to support the full facility, Anderson said, and if it fails to pay the loan back, the Veteran's Administration will want its money back.
"So it could cost the state the entire amount of money if the Buffalo facility fails," Anderson stated.
Each cottage is designed to look and feel like a "real home," according to the release. It consists of separate, private bedrooms and bathrooms for residents, as well as a common living area, a kitchen, and a dining room.
"The Green House concept differs from a traditional nursing home in terms of facility size, interior design, organizational structure, staffing patterns, and methods of delivering skilled professional services," the release stated.
Governor Gordon was all smiles while appearing at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, praising the facility and commenting on how important it is to Wyoming's veterans.
“Our veterans are an integral part of Wyoming’s rich heritage, and it is an honor to celebrate the completion of the first veterans skilled nursing facility in Wyoming,” shared Governor Mark Gordon. “Veterans, and their families, embody the spirit of Wyoming through their courageous and selfless actions to protect the liberties we hold dear. This beautiful facility reflects the honor and dignity owed to those who sacrificed so much to protect our way of life.”
His opinion was shared by those in attendance at the event, including Jack Tarter, a longtime veteran advocate and member of the Wyoming Veterans Commission.
“This is the greatest way ever to take care of our veterans and their spouses and meet their needs," Tarter said.