Eye on the Legislature

June 6, 2016

Final action by Governor Hickenlooper on legislation passed this session is moving a little slow this year. Since last week, no addition bills covered during the session by this column have been signed or vetoed by the Governor. The Wrap Up will continue next week.

In the meantime, Eye on the Legislature will visit a subject that recently came upon the radar of this writer – the Colorado State Veterans Home at Fitzsimons. The reader is encouraged to see the May column over on "Seeing the Round Corners" of this website about the treatment of veterans and volunteers by the facility.

House Bill 16-1397 was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on June 1st, 2016. Titled "Concerning the Completion of the Fitzsimons State Veterans Community Living Center to Provide a Continuum of Residential Care Options," the purpose of the bill was to "repeal and reenact with amendments, the authority of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to build a veterans community living center and assorted facilities on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, subject to available appropriations."

First, some background. DHS "manages and operates five state veterans community living centers that provide services to veterans and their spouses, widows and in some instances, parents of deceased veterans." The locations across the state are:

  • Aurora (Fitzsimons;
  • Florence (McCandless);
  • Monte Vista (Homelake);
  • Rifle; and
  • Walsenburg.

   The fiscal impact analysis states:

  • Each facility is Medicare and Medicaid certified and licensed by the Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • The Centers are certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to receive federal funds in support of the care of veterans.
  • The original plan in 1999 for the Fitzsimons Center was for three facilities:  a community living center, a domiciliary, and a transitional home; however, only the community living center was constructed.

   Services provided by the five state community living centers are:

  • long-term care;
  • short-term rehabilitation for individuals seeking to return home following a qualifying hospital stay;
  • memory care services for individuals with dementia;
  • short-term respite care; and
  • end-of-life/hospice services.

   The bill also outlines the requirements for the construction and use of the facilities and requests that the DHS work collaboratively with the Department of Local Affairs, the Board of Commissioners of Veterans Community Living Centers, the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, the City of Aurora, the State Board of Veterans Affairs and a statewide coalition of veterans organizations, in completing the project.

In this writer's opinion, the number of agencies makes for such a complicated process, it is most telling of such a delay in the completion of the Fitzsimons project. HB 1397 includes the restriction that completion of the Fitzsimons project " must be completed consistent with the original intent in the language of the 1999 Memorandum of Agreement between The Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, the City of Aurora and the State Department." YES!! Note the 1999 date of agreement, a mere 17 years ago!! Also included in the bill is a requirement for progress reports to the Colorado House of Representative and Senate on or before December 31, 2016, and on or before June 30, 2017.

The bill also designates the State Department as the lead agency for the planning, design, completion and operation of the new facilities developed pursuant to Section 1, 26-12-201.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (repealed and reenacted).

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at doris@dorisbeaver.com.