The state of Illinois, this week, unveiled a long-term improvement plan for the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. IVH Administrator Troy Culbertson said, during an open house marking the release of the plan, that the goal is to create a facility that can provide care to veterans for the next 50 years.
“I don’t know if people realize, but one year ago… one year ago this week, discussions were being had on whether or not to keep the IVH open,” said Culbertson. “Here we are one year later, trying to determine how to spend $230-million.”
The future of the IVH in Quincy was in question following several outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. The illness which spreads through water from sinks, showers, or water fountains has been blamed for the deaths of 13 residents since July 2015 and for sickening dozens more residents and staff members.
The state spent millions of dollars in an attempt to prevent future outbreaks by upgrading the water system at the Quincy home.
But a report authored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it would be nearly impossible to prevent future outbreaks due to the aging water system and the highly susceptible population living at the Veteran's home.
The state decided to explore a campus-wide improvement plan instead of solely focuing on the water distribution system. The plan took about six months to create and consists of four phases.
- Phase I – Demolition and Relocation - $10-million – 1 year (funded)
- Phase II – New Building Construction - $174-million – 1-5 years (funded)
- Phase III – Residential Renovation - $28-million – 5-10 years (funded)
- Phase IV – Additional Renovations - $36-million – 10-20 years (partially funded)
Phase I of the master plan is already underway.
Culbertson said crews are finishing up renovations to Lester Hammond Hall, a former nursing home located just a couple blocks from the entrance to the veterans' home. The state bought the building to serve as a transitional home during construction..
Culbertson said starting in late January or early Februrary, some of the residents of the IVH will move into Lester Hammond Hall. He said they will live there while a couple buildings on campus are demolished to make way for a new skilled nursing care building. The new building will house more than 200 residents in mostly single occupancy rooms with private bathrooms.
“The needs of the future veterans are going to be tailored into new areas of emphasis,” said Culbertson. “Potentially orthopedic for amputee recovery, behavioral health and mental health. Maybe a mental health retreat center where current day veterans can transition back into society in a place such as this, where they could transition mentally and socially back into civilian life.”
The design for the new skilled nursing care building should be completed this spring. It could be a few years, though, before construction gets underway.
Culbertson said that's because any new construction must wait until the new water distribution system is installed on campus. He said the state is working with the City of Quincy to make that happen as soon as possible.
Culbertson said with the addition of the new skilled nursing care building, the total number of beds on campus will increase from roughly 370 to more than 500. He said in all only about five or six of the more than 45 buildings on campus will be demolished. Plus, he said there would be new green space, additional amphitheaters and gardens, renewable energy sources and walking trails.
“The opportunity this master plan is going to give us to take care, to expand our mission on this campus, is phenomenal,” said Culbertson.