State agency reiterates intention to keep Rifle veterans home open

The Colorado Department of Human Services on Tuesday sought to assure lawmakers the State Veterans Home in Rifle is not in danger of closing, despite a history of financial losses.

The Legislative Audit Committee this week considered an audit released in December that said the home “will not be able to continue operations if the current loss trend continues.”

The audit cited losses of $931,217 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and about $1.4 million the previous year, and said the home owed the state Treasurer’s Office $1.05 million due to a negative cash balance.

Since the audit’s release, the Human Services Department has been telling the home’s residents, staff and the public that the home’s future is secure.

“The Department has no intention — now or in the future — of closing the State Veterans Home at Rifle,” the agency has said in a news release and newspaper advertisements.

Department spokeswoman Liz McDonough said the home is making a turn toward profitability, having earned $165,000 for the first quarter of its latest fiscal year. The home got a new administrator, Paul D. Crook, in December 2009.

Part of the turnaround is a result of working to boost resident numbers, including by expanding marketing efforts beyond the Rifle area.

The home receives some U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs per-resident funding.

McDonough said it’s important to understand the home isn’t taxpayer-supported.

Rather, it’s one of four state veterans homes in Colorado that generate a pooled annual operating budget of about $50 million, and from which any shortfalls can be covered, increasing the homes’ financial stability.

McDonough said the audit’s phrasing was unfortunate, creating “a great deal of anxiety” about the home’s future.

In fact, the department is investing in that future. It is planning to spend $2 million, including some VA funding, to renovate the facility this year. Plans include improvements to such facilities as the dining room, nurses’ station, activities areas and courtyard.

Also planned is a new Main Street area bringing together a beauty shop, library and ice cream parlor.

Other improvements already have been made, such as new bedroom furniture for many residents, renovated bathing areas, library upgrades and a new aviary.

The home won awards in 2007 and 2009 for family and resident satisfaction, scoring in the top 10 percent nationally among more than 5,000 long-term-care facilities in an independent survey, state officials said.


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