Revised California budget plan calls for closing Barstow vets home

(Courtesy photo)

On May 14, California Governor Gavin Newsom released his revised budget in light of decreased state reviews caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

With businesses closed, and employees quarantined at home state revenues through sales and income tax have dropped.

As part of his plan, Newsom has proposed closing the California Veterans Home in Barstow. As well as closing the Barstow home, the plan calls for a one-year delay to realignment plans at the veterans’ homes in Chula Vista and Yountville.

The Barstow home opened in 1996 and has 220 beds.

In a May 14 letter to residents and staff at the Barstow Home, Vito Imbasciani MD, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, explained the rationale behind the recommendation.

“For the state, COVID-19 has swiftly brought on a devastating economic recession and the state is now facing a budget shortfall of approximately $54 billion,” he said. “ … The budget proposes to initiate steps to close the Barstow home over the next two years.”

Addressing residents, Imbasciani said he understood change is difficult, but Calvet will “work closely with you and your loved ones over the next two years to move you into one of our other wonderful seven Veterans Homes.” He told residents Calvet has a place for each of them.

And to employees of the home, he asked them to continue working at the Barstow home over the next two years, and offered assistance in finding new jobs, either within the CalVet system, or with other state agencies.

(Courtesy photo)

Imbasciani said in his letter that the proposed closure should not be considered unexpected.

The Veterans Homes of California Master Plan 2020 detailed plans to “realign levels of care by reducing Domiciliary populations at Barstow, Chula Vista and Yountville, converting current Intermediate Care Facilities to Residential Care Facilities at Barstow and Yountville, and increasing Skilled Nursing Facility beds at Barstow.”

Domiliciary is defined as independent living for residents able to perform activities of daily living. Residential Care is for residents who require minimal assistance and supervision. Intermediate Care is defined as a level of care that often requires licensed nursing assistance with medications and treatments, and unlicensed assistance with daily living activities. Skilled nursing care provides 24-hour services of licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants.

In his letter, the secretary expanded on this by stating that “Barstow does not meet the criteria for an ideal veterans home location.”

“The area does not have a large veteran population, the home routinely has critical vacancies, the home is 90 minutes away from the nearest VA medical center, and the lack of local nursing programs or a sizeable workforce makes it difficult to recruit for many positions.”

City officials in Barstow, however, won’t go down without a fight.

“The City of Barstow will write a letter to Gov. Newsom pointing out the necessity of the Barstow Veterans Home,” Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre told a local newspaper. “We’ll also encourage our surrounding cities, the County of San Bernardino and local citizens to do the same.”

And Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, who’s 33rd District includes the home, said he will fight the proposal. Obernolte is vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, and a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Budget Conference Committee.

Obernolte, in a statement, said it is “unconscionable to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans and even worse to displace the 200 residents who currently call this home.”

“The Governor may propose the budget, but the Legislature writes it and I will not idly sit by and allow this home to be closed,” Obernolte said in a statement. “Closing it will only save the state $400,000 in this budget year, but the loss of per-diem paid to the state by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for these residents will cost $3 million per year. That math simply doesn’t add up.”

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