Senator Charles Schumer Friday launched a campaign to secure $190M in much-needed funding for the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Campus modernization project.
Specifically, Schumer is pushing for funding in the upcoming Federal fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bill for the 2nd and final phase of the overall $351 million plan. The overall $351 million project is split between a $161 million Phase I that is set to break ground next month thanks to earlier funding Schumer pushed for, and a $190 million Phase II, which is the funding Schumer is now pursuing.
“Following the significant new funding resources we secured for the VA in the recently passed bi-partisan omnibus budget bill, we cannot turn our backs on this multimillion-dollar project that will give Rochester-area veterans the facilities they need and deserve. That is why I am fighting day in and day out to ensure that this project is fully funded – at $190 million Phase II – and completed quickly. Fifteen years ago based on claims it was outdated, the Canandaigua VA was targeted for closure. But we stopped that in its tracks and instead launched this plan to modernize the campus to provide state-of-the-art care and guard against any future attempts to close it. Leaving this project half-done will be a slap in the face to those who served and protected us and no veteran here should be left looking over their shoulder worried it could once again be targeted for closure. These brave men and women fought to protect our freedom and it is our duty to provide them with access to high-quality health care services when they return home,” said Senator Schumer. “This project has been in the works for years and I’m excited to give it the final push it needs to cross the finish line for the veterans of Upstate New York. I will keep working, as I have for the last decade, to not only make sure this center stays open but also to ensure that Rochester area veterans have the state-of-the-art facility they need.”
The Phase II funding will go toward the upgrades and modernization of the Canandaigua VA campus, including the construction of a 120-bed Community Living Center Complex that replaces its now outdated long-term living spaces, the renovation of its now dilapidated 50-bed Domiciliary facility where veterans live for 3-6 months before re-entering the community after receiving assistance for homelessness, substance abuse, or mental or behavior health therapy, and the renovation of building 3 to improve rehab and physical therapy offerings, as well as other upgrades. Schumer’s final push is the culmination of a multi-year effort to save the Canandaigua VA from plans by the VA in 2003 to close the facility and to instead invest in the Canandaigua VA campus so that a new state-of-the-art facility can serve Rochester Finger Lakes veterans for decades to come. Schumer vowed to keep fighting for funding so that Rochester area veterans receive the care they need and deserve. Today’s announcement represents the next step in the process; working to fund the construction of Phase II projects that will expand the availability of convenient, high-quality medical care for Rochester area veterans, stave off any future attempts to close the facility, and make the 85 year old, 150-acre VA campus more efficient and cost-effective to operate.
The VA originally announced in 2007 that it would initiate a major reconstruction project to modernize the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in order to provide state-of-the-art care and meet the needs of current and future veterans. This announcement came after Schumer, local veterans, and the community, in 2003-2004, convinced the VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhancement Services (CARES) Commission to reverse its recommendation to close the Canandaigua Medical Center. To begin the redevelopment project, Schumer secured $36.58 million in FY 2010 to complete a new campus master plan. In 2013, Schumer wrote to then VA Secretary Shinseki to include funding for the site in their budget request. In 2014, Schumer announced the VA agreed to this request and would seek the necessary $122.4 million, which Schumer then helped secure as part of the FY 2015 omnibus spending bill. Altogether the $161M Phase I scope of work includes building a new 84,200 sq. ft. three-story modern Outpatient Clinic in now undeveloped space between buildings 1 and 2, as well as upgrades to utilities, access roads, parking and construction of additional state-of-the-art updates. Schumer said the construction and completion of this vital project will not only bring area veterans the upgraded facilities and care they require near their homes, but will also provide a significant local investment to positively impact the regional economy.
Schumer explained the $161 million Phase I of the major Canandaigua VA Campus Modernization redevelopment is now underway, with the formal groundbreaking for Phase I to occur next month on April 10th and set to be completed by the end of 2021. Senator Schumer helped deliver $161 million that funded Phase I’s design, construction, and asbestos removal. Schumer announced in January that local Rochester contractor Pike Construction, through a joint development with another contractor PJ Dick, was awarded the $143,698,000 Phase I construction contract.
The $190 million that Schumer is pursuing today for Phase II would construct several new buildings and renovate several others to improve care and upgrade services for local veterans. Specifically, Phase II would include:
- Construction of a new Community Living Center (CLC) complex that will provide long-term housing with geriatric and hospice care for 120 veterans as well as a new veterans Community Center. 10 new “small houses” or cottages will be built on the VA campus, each with room for 12 residents to replace the campus’ now outdated long-term living spaces. In a Community Living Center (CLC), VA provides up to nursing home level of care, which includes help with activities of daily living (e.g., bathing and getting dressed) and skilled nursing and medical care. Veteran residents can receive long-term recovery care, mental health treatment, and geriatric care. Unlike many nursing homes in the past, a CLC resembles “home” as much as possible. There are activities for Veterans of all ages. There are family friendly places for visiting. These 10 new “small houses” will replace the Canandaigua VA’s current long-term care housing facilities which are outdated.
o Within the CLC Complex, they will also construct a new Veteran Community Center that will serve as a modern central shared gathering place for various veteran and community activities.
- Renovation and modernization of the existing 50-bed Domiciliary facility that provides short-term (3-6 months) housing for veterans while they recover from substance abuse, homelessness, and mental/behavioral health concerns. The existing Domiciliary is among the buildings in the worst shape on the Canandaigua campus and most in-need of renovations to address infrastructure and maintenance issues. Many of the patient rooms lack bathrooms and are not designed to support 21st century level of care.
o Veteran residents in the Domiciliary get a place to heal from problems with substance abuse, homelessness or vocational challenges. While living here the VA establishes a treatment plan that prepares the Veteran with the skills needed to maintain a better quality of life on a permanent basis. Over the course of three to six months, new behaviors are developed to foster independence and success upon reentering the community.
3) Renovate Building 3 to improve Rehab & Physical Therapy offerings, renovate Building 4 to support Outpatient/Administrative/Logistics support functions of the Campus, and renovate the Building 5 ventilation system.
The new outpatient clinic is currently set to open in 2022. Under Schumer’s plan, with the additional $190 million in federal funding, the VA would begin advertising for contractors for Phase II as early as the fourth quarter of 2018, with a contract to be awarded in the spring of 2019. This would allow phase II of the project to be completed by the end of 2023. The VA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request to Congress is supportive of Schumer’s push in that it includes the Canandaigua VA’s $190 million Phase II among the five VA medical campuses it is seeking Major Construction funding for in FY19.
Schumer was joined by veterans and VA officials.
Wayne Thompson, Chairman of the Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council said, “The Finger Lakes Veterans Advocacy Council has long supported the major construction project to upgrade and improve the facilities at the Canandaigua VA Medical Campus to improve the health, safety, and quality of care for our veterans. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s past efforts to help secure the funding needed to break ground this year on phase I with the new Outpatient Clinic as well as his push today for Phase II funding so that we can finally complete this long-sought modernization plan.”
Schumer’s new push is for the final $190 million needed to complete Phase II, which will take the VA campus to the next level for the benefit of Rochester area veterans and their families. Schumer also argued that the second phase of the operation could serve as an economic boon to the region, creating high-paying construction jobs for the duration of the project, as well as many more career opportunities in the healthcare industry in years to come.