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DIGGING DEEPER: What’s next for the Illinois Veterans’ Home?

Quincy (WGEM) — You can’t walk inside Quincy’s former Sycamore Healthcare facility without a hard hat. The reason why is obvious. Crews are gutting the facility from the ceiling to floor to turn the building into temporary housing for some veterans from the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. It’s where they’ll live while crews are building a new vets’ home and renovating other parts of the campus.

The number of beds once available at the former Sycamore facility have actually been scaled down.

“We’ve done that so we can offer our residents expanded room, expanded bathrooms, larger areas,” Veterans’ Home Administrator Troy Culbertson said.

One of those larger areas includes an activity center.

“Residents and family members can join down here for meals,” Culbertson said.

Meanwhile, the rooms have all new flooring, lighting and walls were reconstructed. “In order to complete the project with the amount of effort that has to be done here, they’re running two 12-hour shifts seven days a week,” Culbertson said.

The work is scheduled to be done in December and some veterans’ home residents will transition to the temporary housing in January.

“I’m looking forward to any improvement they can make to make it more comfortable for us.” resident John Caristo said.

“We’re looking forward to more room for yourself, more privacy for the individual,” added resident Tom Meleski.

The transition will involve residents with dementia so a third party contractor will oversee it.

“And this company is going to actually take pictures and video of the room to show every item there and the place it was in their existing room and they’re going to reconstruct it in these rooms,” Culbertson said. “They’re gonna make sure everything is in the same order as possible in these rooms for familiarity. we want to minimize the transfer trauma.”

The residents will transfer from buildings on the main vets’ home campus that will be demolished. Crews knocked down Rowland Barracks in October and by spring, expect more demolition with Elmore Infirmary, Kent Infirmary and a guest house slated to come down.

The demolition is to make way for a new vets’ home phased in over three years — all to prevent a repeat of the Legionnaires’ outbreak that killed 14 residents and sickened 66 others.

The master plan for the new campus includes more green space, an outdoor amphitheater, new buildings and additional services like behavioral health care.

All of this started under Governor Bruce Rauner after his administration’s response to the outbreak was called into question. However,  Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker promises to see it through.

“What’s certain to me is that we’re not going to move backward from the promises that have been made. We just want to do what’s best for the veterans and their families,” Pritzker said.

The governor-elect says obtaining funding to keep the project on track is a priority. and, his administration will be in communication with Washington.

“It’s very important that we follow up and follow through with the federal government which will fund almost two thirds of the cost of that veterans home and that we move the veterans into that sycamore facility to keep them safe from further harm,” Pritzker said.

Veterans are eager to see the end result.

“It looks good. The main thing now is get it done,” Roger Schwengel with American Legion Post 37 said.

There are some concerns that a possible decrease in the number of skilled-care beds at the new facility could lead to fewer jobs. Governor Rauner previously said that won’t happen and if you include care for behavioral health and dementia and all the categories, it’s actually an increase.

The state expects to finish a final master plan and present that at another open house December 18.

Illinois Veterans Affairs: Quincy Matters page

Illinois Veteran’s Home Master Plan Update 



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Future Illinois Veteran’s Home concept diagrams



Illinois Veteran’s Home Master Plan PDF





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