(Tribune News Service) — Michigan Veteran Homes, a skilled nursing program for veterans, is laying the groundwork for a new space in Marquette, now it has secured state funding.
The state is looking to replace the D.J. Jacobetti home in Marquette with a one that moves away from the “institutional” look of previous spaces. New sites are expected to more closely fit in with a neighborhood, said Anne Zerbe, executive director of Michigan Veteran Homes.
“We’re trying to move toward something that looks a lot more like home,” Zerbe said. “It’s person-centered. When (a patient) goes into skilled nursing, that shouldn’t be the end of feeling like you’re living in a place that you can actually say, ‘This is my home.’ We all know hospitals don’t really feel like home.”
The design will match that of new veteran homes recently built in Grand Rapids and Chesterfield Township in Macomb County.
Zerbe said the home in Marquette will be able to house about 100 veterans when completed, although the exact number has not been decided. Each resident will have their own bedroom and bathroom, and will share a kitchen and other common spaces.
Other services include clinical and therapeutic services, barbershop, salon, green space and courtyards and meeting space. Veteran homes differ from more traditional nursing homes not only in services but in programs offered. Residents, for example, can take hunting trips together.
The project is possible thanks to new funding set aside in the state budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The state will put up $34.2 million for the project. In total, the estimated cost for the project is $97.6 million. Michigan Veterans Homes is housed within the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, according to the state’s website.
“The support provided by Governor Whitmer and Michigan’s Legislature ensures Michigan’s continued ability to provide critical long-term care services to our Upper Peninsula veterans,” said Brad Slagle, retired administrator for the D.J. Jacobetti home and board member for Michigan Veteran Homes, in a news release.
“The building on Fisher Street has been a home to Upper Peninsula veterans for 41 years, with the staff and volunteers making it a true home. That tradition will continue in a new building with a modern design that provides five-star services with the same loving care.”
That funding from the state is the first step for the project, which could open in three or four years, Zerbe said. After the funding is secured, Michigan Veteran Homes can get funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Construction Grant Program, from which it expects $63.6 million for the project. The funds could come as soon as 2023 or 2024.
Zerbe said Michigan Veteran Homes will engage with others locally, including nearby residents and the city of Marquette, about where the next home should be. The current site isn’t big enough for a new building to be put up while the old one is still standing, she said, and her team doesn’t want to halt service during construction.
Zerbe said Marquette makes sense for a new veterans home. The existing home has been there since the early 1980s, and more than 100 veterans live there.
It’s also part of the goal of Michigan Veteran Homes to have a home within 75 miles of 95% of Michigan residents, Establishing a home close to loved ones makes visiting easier, Zerbe said.
The next goal is to establish more veterans homes in the tricounty area of Detroit, where Zerbe said about a third of all Michigan veterans live.
As the number of World War II and Korean War veterans drops, “there may be less of a demand in coming decades, although there is still a significant demand for these types of services,” Zerbe said. “We want to continue to serve those people.”
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