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Holyoke Soldiers’ Home bond bill S. 2439

Dear Senators,

Dignity Alliance Massachusetts supports the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home bond bill S. 2439 as well as adoption of Amendment 13 proposed by Senator Lovely and Amendment 16 proposed by Senator Collins.    These amendments ensure that the construction of a replacement facility on the campus of the current Holyoke Soldiers’ Home adheres to the US Department of Veterans Affairs preferred model of a “Small House” Design and that veterans across the Commonwealth do not have to leave their home communities to receive the care and services they need and deserve. 

The amendment accomplishes two important changes to the original proposal to replace the current Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.  First, the amendment specifies that veterans receive care in facilities which adhere to the design standards of the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Small House Model” (see attached Fact Sheet).  It also ensures that fundamental care values and practices that embrace the principles of dignity, self-determination, choice, and equitable access are embedded in facility development and future operations. 

The Small House Model is more than a design schematic.  It is an evidenced-based, consumer-directed philosophy of care and services in which the individualized needs and preferences of each and every veteran resident are recognized and honored.  To commit to this approach of care, Small House units must be intentional communities of no more than 14 residents.  Additionally, no more than two Small Houses should occupy one floor, limiting the number of veterans on each level to more than 28, each in their own private bedroom.

Second, the amendment provides for a portion of the bond proceeds to be expended on the construction of Small House buildings to be equitably and accessibly located in other communities in Western Massachusetts allowing veterans to stay in or near their home communities while receiving necessary care and services. 

The mission of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home is to serve all eligible veterans who reside in the Commonwealth.  However, utilization data from the Home clearly documents that most veteran patients at the Home come from just two counties, Hampden and Hampshire.  Moreover, the amendment calls for the construction of Small House units for the specialized needs of women veterans as well as accessible for veterans living in urban, underserved communities.

Dignity Alliance Massachusetts fully supports the construction of a new building on the Holyoke campus dedicated to the care and service needs of the Commonwealth’s veterans.  However, we strongly advocate that building feature major components dedicated to outpatient care, an array of home and community-based services, and training, education, and research activities with a significant reduction of inpatient capacity. 

We urge the Senate to amend the current bill to ensure that care and services provided to veterans today and in the future are provided with a meaningful commitment to dignity, choice, and self-determination honoring their previous service and sacrifice.