by Ann M. Colford

There's now a new long-term care option available in Spokane to veterans of the U.S. military services. In October 2001, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs opened the Spokane Veterans Home at 222 E. Fifth Ave. in Spokane, adjacent to St. Luke's Rehabilitation facility. Administrator Kathy Magonigle says this is the first veterans' home to open in the state in 90 years, and it's the first facility of its kind east of the Cascades.

"Local veterans here worked hard to make this happen, and [Representative] George Nethercutt was instrumental in the process," she says. "The funding bill for this home passed with a 100 percent vote in both the U.S. House and Senate last June."

The Spokane Veterans Home is a skilled nursing facility with a capacity of 100 beds for honorably discharged veterans of the United States military who meet the medical eligibility needs. The spouse of an eligible veteran may be admitted with the veteran if the spouse needs skilled nursing as well. Magonigle says admissions to the new facility are off to a strong start since the opening on October 4, but there's plenty of room still available.

"We're at about 30 to 35 percent capacity as of the end of January," she says. "We have had 14 to 16 admissions in January alone, but we still have no waiting list."

Magonigle also wants to point out that a veteran's own physician may continue to direct the patient's care after admission, and the veteran's disability need not be service-related. "Typically, we take people with more medically complex needs," she says. "We have people with MS [Multiple Sclerosis]; with wound care needs; amputees; and patients with Alzheimer's or dementia, if they're not an elopement potential."

The need for a veterans' home on the east side of the state has been glaringly obvious to the families of disabled veterans here for a long time; two veterans' homes on the west side have been providing the only residential care for Washington veterans for nearly a century, Magonigle says. "Washington state ranks 12th in the nation for the number of veterans in our population, but our state is 42nd in the nation for our funding for veterans' care.

"It's important for nursing home residents to have support from their families," Magonigle says, adding that having a home on this side of the state makes that support more feasible. "It keeps [the residents] close to their families and friends, so we have a lot more visitors than the other facilities.

"Veterans have special needs all to themselves," she continues. "Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, so we offer some psycho-social interventions as well. I see [the Spokane Veterans Home] filling the void for this population."

Magonigle says the facility has worked to streamline the admission process for families. Call the home at 509-344-5770 and talk to Michael Regan, the Veterans Benefits Specialist, and he'll schedule an appointment to get the process rolling, she says. "Mike works through all of the financial paperwork, plus making sure the spouse is getting what's needed," she says. "Usually, the spouse or family is so exhausted by the time they call us that we try to get it done quickly. We walk you through the process."

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