An announcement from the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and state legislators marks the beginning of a new journey for the Ardmore Veterans Center.
State Sen. Frank Simpson R-Springer, State Rep. Tommy Hardin R-Madill and BG Doug Elliot, executive director for Oklahome Department of Veterans Affairs, announced a working plan to build a new, state of the art center to house veterans in long-term care in Ardmore.
“Three years ago a meeting took place at my office at the state capitol, and at that meeting I met with the newly appointed executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, Gen. Myles Deering and his assistant, Mr. Doug Elliot,” Simpson said. “During that meeting we discussed a wide range of issues that involved veterans in our great state of Oklahoma. We discussed expanding the focus and broadening the vision of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Simpson said those discussions included planning for aging veterans and for the future of the Veterans Centers.
“Today, Ardmore has moved to the center of that discussion,” Simpson said. “My colleague Tommy Hardin and I… are proud to officially announce that the planning process starts today for the construction of a new Veterans Center in Ardmore, Oklahoma.”
Simpson said this is the first of many steps in the journey of this process.
“I’ve had to address many false and inaccurate narratives regarding the Ardmore Veterans Center,” Simpson said. “Those included everything from closing the Ardmore Center to turning it into a nursing home. Today, hopefully, we can put some of those false narratives and misleading information to rest.” Simpson said the Ardmore Center has a long history of serving veterans, and that history will continue.
“Ardmore is not closing. Not only are we are not turning Ardmore into a nursing home, we are moving in the opposite direction,” Simpson said. “We will be moving away from the typical institutional setting that so many are accustomed to, to a new concept in long-term care that offers veterans independence, privacy and dignity.” Simpson said private rooms with private baths that meet the needs of the veteran, not the institution, are in the plans for the new center.
While all acknowledged the process will be a long one, Simpson said state and local officials will work together with the community to make it happen.
Rep. Tommy Hardin said being a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee has brought the most joy and the most pain in his time as a legislator. “We want to focus on and do what’s right for our veterans,” Hardin said.
Elliot said that plans for a Veterans Cemetery in Ardmore are also forthcoming. “We are on the list,” Elliot said. “We are 24th on the list, however, the fact is expansions in other states take priority over us. If that money is eaten up, we will not get the funding this year. We don’t know where that pans out, but we will continue to remain on the list until that is completed.”
Elliot said when he first came to the ODVA, centers would have buckets or barrels in the halls to catch rainwater leaks. “The veterans were having to go around the barrels like an obstacle course in their wheelchairs,” Elliot said. “Come to find out, in Ardmore, my residents were having to back up to space heaters in their rooms to keep warm. That’s not acceptable folks. We can do better than this.” Elliot said better, private facilities are possible with the help of the federal government. “The federal government gives us 65% of this money,” Elliot said. He said the ODVA has implemented cost savings and managed their budgets in a way that allows them to fund their portion of the proposed project at $24 million. “We’re home,” Elliot said. “We can make this application this year.” Elliot said Ardmore and Talihina will be on that list for the federal funding within the next 90 days. “And if they don’t fund it, we will get there on our own,” Elliot said. “If the federal government will kick in, it will be that much better.”
“It appears that the stars and dollar signs are aligning for a new center in Ardmore to become a reality in the very near future,” Elliot said. “That application will be done by January 1 and we will know something by August of next year as to whether or not we receive that funding.”