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First nursing home for veterans gets OK

WINDOW ROCK

After years of preparation and planning by dozens of leaders and advocates, Diné veterans can finally look forward to having their own nursing home.

On Monday, President Jonathan Nez joined members of the Chinle Agency Veterans Organization and Chinle Chapter officials at the Dr. Guy Gorman Senior Care Home to sign into law the Council resolution, which appropriates $29.2 million in Sihasin Funds to construct and operate a 60-bed nursing home in Chinle called the “Navajo Warriors Home.”

Delegate Carl Slater, who sponsored the legislation, and Chinle Delegate Eugene Tso also attended for signing ceremony for the resolution, which was approved unanimously by the Navajo Nation Council on April 20.

The new facility will be the first nursing home on the Navajo Nation dedicated to providing services exclusively for veterans.

“As Navajo people, we all have someone in our family who has served or is serving in the Armed Forces,” said Nez. “We have a long proud history of military service among the First People of this country.”

The Navajo Warriors Home will be built next door to the Dr. Guy Gorman Senior Care Home, the only Arizona nursing home licensed for Medicare/Medicaid services on the Navajo Nation.

Slater, vice chairman of the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, said it is his hope that the project will serve as a template for more nursing homes on the Nation. The goal is to have at least one in every agency.

“We hope this collaborative effort provides a sustainable model that leadership can look to in the future as we establish resources for every Navajo veteran,” said Slater.

According to the legislation, until now if a Navajo veteran has required nursing home care due to health and/or age, there have been no veteran-specific nursing homes on the Navajo Nation. The only solution is to be admitted to a Veterans Administration nursing home hundreds of miles away.

Also admissions depend on space availability and priorities set by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, sometimes leaving Navajo veterans with long wait times.

Wayne Claw, CEO for Navajoland Nursing Homes Inc., who spearheaded the project and also oversees the 80-bed Gorman home, thanked the Nation’s leaders for their efforts to bring the Navajo Warriors Home to fruition.

“Since 2005, we have been working hard on this project,” said Claw. “We have to take care of our veterans on the lands they have protected for us on the battlefields. We welcomed our veterans back home when they completed their service and now, we have to take care of them.”

In 2015, Navajo Housing Authority provided $250,000 to the Navajoland home to design the project, by Dyron Murphy Architects, so it is construction ready.

Of the $29.2 million in the expenditure plan, $19.3 million is allocated for construction, $6.8 million for project management/utility costs, and startup service operation costs of $3.2 million for the first year.

Navajoland will oversee the construction and operation of the Navajo veterans’ home and the Navajo Department of Health and HEHSC will provide administrative oversight.

Claw said he hopes to bid out for contracts by November so construction can begin in early 2023.

He said additional funds will have to be sourced, including through P.L. 93-638 contracts, to fund operations past the first year, but it will be much easier to do so with the facility up and running.

Slater also hopes that in addition to Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, the Indian Health Service and the VA can provide long-term care funding and services to sustain operations into the future.

“Now there’s some weight off of me, but there’s still a lot to be done,” said Claw.


About The Author

Rima Krisst

Reporter and photojournalist Rima Krisst has been with the Navajo Times since July of 2018, and covers our Arts and Culture and Government Affairs beats. Prior to joining the editorial team at the Times, Krisst worked in various capacities in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and Indian Affairs policy on behalf of the Tribes, Nations and Pueblos of New Mexico. Among her posts, she served as Director of PR and Communications for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department under Governor Bill Richardson, Healthcare Outreach and Education Manager for the Eight Northern Pueblos, Tribal Tourism Liaison for the City of Santa Fe, and Marketing Projects Coordinator for Santa Fe Indian Market. As a writer and photographer, she has also worked independently as a contractor on many special projects, and her work has been published in magazines. Krisst earned her B.S. in Business Administration/Finance from the University of Connecticut.

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