By Adam Swift
There were big names on hand from the State House and Washington, DC last Friday for a ribbon cutting at the new Massachusetts Veterans Home in Chelsea, but the focus was on the services the new state-of-the-art facility will provide for those who have served and sacrificed for their country.
“The new Veterans Home in Chelsea is what our veterans earned and deserve, and it represents a new era of care and commitment to our veterans in Massachusetts,” said Governor Healey. “It offers a sense of community for our veterans, allows them to have dignity and autonomy in a home-like environment, and makes sure their physical, mental, and emotional needs are met.”
Healey was joined at the event by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Executive Office of Veterans Services Secretary Jon Santiago.
The officials visited the home and toured the facility, exploring its features and amenities, including the rehabilitation room and environmentally sustainable elements. They also visited several of the veteran residents living in the building.
The Veterans Home is designed to foster community among residents, with 154 private resident rooms organized around shared community and green spaces. The home is also fossil-fuel free and features geothermal wells and a rooftop solar array.
“Cutting a ribbon on a new community living center really resonates because today’s Department of Veterans Affairs traces its very roots to what were essentially community living centers for vets,” said McDonough. “The first one was in Maine … the second one was in Massachusetts.”
McDonough said today’s community living centers offer a full spectrum of care that includes skilled nursing, rehabilitative services, mental health services and integrate support services like physical therapy and recreational activities and social engagement programs.
“What hasn’t changed in that time is the courage, the character, and the dignity of the veterans who call this, and will call this, home,” he said.
Santiago said the mission of the new facility is to honor those who have selflessly served the nation.
“Although we can’t change the past, we can shape the future,” said Santiago. “The Veterans Home at Chelsea represents a pivotal juncture in our ongoing mission to honor our veterans through top-tier care and support.”
Currently, 22 residents have moved into the new home, and all residents are expected to be fully moved into the new home by early 2024.
“This is a chance to show just how much we care about our veterans,” said Warren. “This is not just about words, this is about putting those words into action.”
Warren thanked the Healey-Driscoll administration and Santiago for ensuring that the Veterans Home in Chelsea provides first-rate care to all veterans. She also thanked McDonough for coming up to the ribbon cutting to help celebrate the progress that is being made for veterans in Massachusetts.
“A very special thank you to Senator (Sal) DiDomenico and Representative (Judith) Garcia who are champions for their community every day and helped get the funding so we could do this,” said Warren.
The Healey-Driscoll administration utilized federal funding in its Capital Improvement Plan to construct new veterans homes in Chelsea and Holyoke. The federal government is offering up to 65 percent reimbursement for the projects, with the state contributing a 35 percent match, resulting in a total five-year state investment of $280.1 million. The cost of the Chelsea Home is approximately $200 million, with a significant portion covered by the federal investment.
Representing the families of the veterans families, Mary Bender spoke about the experience of her family and her brother, who lives at the home.
“My brother Jim, a proud Army veteran, has been a resident here since April of 2022,” said Bender. “Jim had a long career as an ATF investigator when he first began having strokes. He soon became disabled.”
When her brother was first accepted into the Chelsea home, Bender said she and her four sisters were on hand to make sure he was well taken care of.
“When we first got here, this building was standing, but not yet open,” she said. “We were not impressed by the (old) building at all, but it did not take us long to realize that Jim had a host of dedicated caregivers. So we would look longingly at this building, waiting for the day when the building would be as wonderful as his staff.
“On Oct. 18, that day arrived, Jim moved into a clean, bright room with breathtaking views and a new TV,” said Bender. “As family members, we were also glad to see all the safety features … but most importantly to us, this place is so welcoming and open.”