North Idaho Veterans Home: Mission accomplished!

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Crosby

The recent announcement by Gov. Little that the Idaho Division of Veteran Services has received confirmation that the Veterans Administration has approved a $31 million construction grant for a new 57-bed North Idaho Veterans Home to be built in Post Falls culminates a 15-year effort to secure this facility.

The effort was started by former Mayor Clay Larkin and former Rep. Frank Henderson (both veterans), who saw the need for a facility of this type to serve our North Idaho veterans. About 10 years ago we secured funding from the state Legislature to conduct a needs study. The study confirmed the need, and since then we have worked closely with the Idaho Division of Veteran Services, our state legislators and our delegation in Congress to further this effort.

We received tremendous support from the Jacklin family and the Jacklin Land Company, who agreed to donate a wonderful 7.3-acre site located in the Riverbend Commerce Park for the facility. The magnitude of that donation from Don, Doyle, Duane and Tag Jacklin, and the coordination efforts of Tom Stoeser greatly improved our chances of success.

We overcame concern regarding our ability to attract medical and support staff relying on guidance and hiring data provided by John Ness of Kootenai Health, Rick Rasmussen of Northwest Specialty Hospital and Mike Baker of Heritage Health. We worked with architects from the Idaho Division of Veteran Services to redesign the original building concept to reduce construction costs and improve operating efficiency.

Throughout this effort we received great support and assistance from our elected officials. Mayor Ron Jacobsen and the staff of the city of Post Falls were consistent advocates and supporters. Mayor Steve Widmyer also provided advice and support. Former Sen. Bob Nonini and Rep. Ron Mendive led the effort to secure the matching funding required from the state Legislature for the facility. U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and their staffs strongly and consistently advocated with VA on our behalf.

The Idaho Division of Veteran Services did much of the heavy lifting, working closely with the state Legislature and the Veterans Administration to develop our application and shepherd it through the maze of VA regulations. Chief Administrator Marv Hagedorn and his point person for this project, Deputy Administrator Tracy Schaner, worked tirelessly to overcome barriers and move things forward.

Veterans and Veteran Service Organizations throughout North Idaho, especially our local chapters of the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Kootenai Veterans Council have consistently encouraged our efforts, and written letters in support of this facility.

Securing VA funding for this facility has been a true state and community effort with members of our community coming forward to offer their support, their knowledge and their treasure at critical junctures to make this dream a reality.

This facility will serve and support our local veterans and their families for decades, so the point of this letter is to extend a huge THANK YOU to the citizens of North Idaho and to those community heroes who stepped up. Together we CAN accomplish miracles!

•••

Len Crosby is a member of the American Legion and one of several local veterans who worked tirelessly to make the North Idaho Veterans Home in Post Falls a reality.

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