Texas land commissioner, local officials, and veterans break ground for new Texas State Veterans Home in Tyler

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tyler home is first of its kind in Texas to offer cottage-like setting

Places where honor lives.

That’s how Jerry Patterson, Chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board and Texas land commissioner, described the planned Texas State Veterans Home in Tyler during a Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony held on The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler campus.

“We’re proud to finally deliver for Smith County the eighth veterans home for Texas,” Patterson said.

He was one of several speakers at the ceremony, which took place near the Camp Fannin Veterans Memorial. The veterans home will be located on 20 acres donated by UTHSCT.

At right, Patterson talks about the new Texas State Veterans Home while a member of the color guard at the ceremony displays the Texas flag.

From 1943 to 1946, Camp Fannin was a World War II infantry training camp that had a 1,000-bed Army barracks hospital.

After the war ended, the camp was decommissioned and the hospital barracks, along with 614 acres of land, was given to the state of Texas for a tuberculosis sanatorium. This facility was the genesis of what has become UTHSCT, the academic center for Northeast Texas.

The as-of-yet-unnamed Tyler veterans home will be the first of its kind in Texas, offering family-style living in a small, cottage-like setting to 100 veterans.

It will be the eighth Texas State Veterans Home built in Texas since Patterson wrote the legislation creating the long-term care program in 1997.

“Texas State Veterans Homes provide the best care anywhere, but we’re bringing the very best to Tyler,” Patterson told the 200 or so people in the audience.

“This veterans home embodies a revolutionary approach to long-term care that I’m proud to be able to bring to Texas veterans,” he said.

UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said he, too was proud of the veterans.

“We hope to continue to do all we can to make sure that all the veterans of East Texas have access to all the services that they deserve. And they deserve a lot for their service,” he said.

Unlike previous Texas State Veterans Homes, the Smith County home will consist of 10 cottages and one common building.

Each cottage is designed to encourage social interactions, mixing the best communal aspects of a home while still maintaining privacy and independence for residents.

An open kitchen, dining room, and large table are at the heart of each of the 10 cottages. Family-style meals will be served at the table and residents can enjoy each other’s company afterward in a large living room with a fireplace.

A total of 10 private rooms, each with its own bathroom, will flank the hearth. Overhead tracks with slings in each resident’s room will allow residents who can’t walk unaided to be safely moved from bed to bath.

“We see past the construction equipment and the bricks and the mortar of buildings. We see the lives: the lives of our veterans that will be changed and properly honored for their service to this country,” Smith County Judge Joel Baker said.

Other officials who spoke at the groundbreaking included Toby P. Cross, director of the Smith County Veterans Service Department; Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass; State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler; Bill McLemore, congressional liaison, VA Heart of Texas Health Care Network; and John Anderson, president of the Camp Fannin Veterans Memorial.

The home will be built with a grant of about $12 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with the remaining 35 percent paid for by the Texas Veterans Land Board.

The new Texas State Veterans Home will join seven others across the state in Amarillo, Big Spring, Bonham, El Paso, Floresville, McAllen and Temple.

Touchstone Communities, which has its headquarters in San Antonio, will manage the Tyler Texas State Veterans Home.

Touchstone Communities provides extensive health care services, including skilled-nursing care, assisted living, Alzheimer’s care and rehabilitative services. Touchstone already manages Texas State Veterans Homes in Amarillo, Bonham, Floresville, and Temple.

Texas State Veterans Homes offer a broad spectrum of health care services, comprehensive rehabilitation programs, special diets, recreational activities, social services, libraries, and certified, secured Alzheimer’s units, each with its own secured outdoor courtyard.

For 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. UTHSCT’s annual operating budget of $125 million represents a major economic impact of over $287 million to the Northeast Texas region. In FY 2009, scientists in the Center for Biomedical Research were awarded 80 competitive grants and contracts totaling $14.6 million. As the academic medical center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education program – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities throughout the region and beyond.

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