|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE In what he called his "10th or 12th" visit to the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said the Patrick Administration would seek additional funding for the expansion of programs at the veterans' facility.
Murray, Coleman Nee, secretary of the Department of Veterans' Services, and John Polanowicz, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, toured the Soldiers' Home on April 4 with Paul Barabani, its superintendent, and Board Chair Steve Como.
Barabani called the visit "another demonstration of the administration's support of veterans in Western Massachusetts." He added the purpose of the visit was to talk with Murray about future programs and projects at the home.
During the tour, Murray saw the home's new veterans' assistance center and the dental clinic, which is operated by the Holyoke Health Center. Murray was told the dental clinic is operating at capacity, but there is still need for more service.
Nee said that dental service "is a gap in Veterans' Administration treatment."
In the facility's lower level, Barabani showed Murray plans for a new entrance that would be on the same level as the parking lot and for the creation of an expanded dental clinic, as well as an adult day healthcare department.
Barabani explained the adult day healthcare department would provide treatment to vets and allow them to live longer in their homes. He added the service would allow a transitional phase for those vets whose care requires moving into the home.
The plans have been submitted to the Veterans' Administration for approval. Once they are approved, they must then be funded by the state. The price tag for the improvements would be about $2.5 million.
Murray told administrators and residents, "Our team is going to storm the State House and go to Administration and Finance to try to shake loose [funding]."
According to material supplied by Murray's office, Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget includes a 3.3 percent increase in the budget for the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
If legislature concerning Patrick's Fiscal Years 2013 through 2017 Capital Investment Plan is passed, his administration will have the authorization to consider funding new programs and projects at the home.
Murray said, "There is no more important need than to take care of our veterans."
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