By Rachel Sapin, Staff Writer for the Aurora Sentinel
State lawmakers, city council members agree new facilities needed for growing vet population, but their plans vary
AURORA | John Shattuck, a former naval operator and longtime United Airlines pilot, uses a motorized wheelchair to get around these days after four knee operations.
But being around other veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Home in Aurora makes the mobility challenges a bit more palatable.
“This is absolutely a wonderful place,” says the 86-year-old resident of the Colorado state veterans home located on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Today, the veterans home at Fitzsimons is a 180-bed facility providing nursing care and a specialized 21-bed, short-term rehabilitation unit.
But city and state officials want to see more types of housing for veterans on the site, conveniently located next to a plethora of medical outfits including the University of Colorado Hospital. In coming years, the campus will also be home to a massive Veterans Affairs hospital.
With more veterans slated to need housing on the Anschutz campus, state Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, said she is drafting a bill that would direct the Colorado Department of Human Services to complete the center by also providing space for homeless, low-income and disabled veterans and their families.
Ryden said the bill directs the Colorado Department of Human Services, which operates the veterans nursing home, to expand it and construct homes that provide veterans with a continuum of care. Under the measure that housing would include domiciliary and assisted living as well as transitional housing.
Ryden said she is carrying on the work of former state Sen. Stephanie Takis, who helped pass legislation to open the Fitzsimons veterans community living center in 2002.
“Right after the living center opened, we had a recession,” Ryden said. “I’ve been on the Fitzsimons nursing home advisory committee for three years. This topic came up. I wanted to try to get it rolling again.”