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First veterans service center of its kind planned

Collier County will be a national pioneer in veterans care

Collier County is home to over 26,000 veterans. We owe our freedom and safety to the men and women who were willing to risk their lives to protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic. By providing Collier County veterans with long-term nursing home care, rehabilitation services, adult day care and the other supports and services they have earned, the goal of making Collier County the most veteran-friendly county in Florida comes closer to becoming a reality.

This long-term care campus will be the first of its kind and will offer a range of services never before proposed by the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) that go far beyond the traditional offerings of a nursing home. The FDVA is so proud of this project in Collier County that it has decided to rename the facility a veterans’ long-term care facility.

The county has allocated $40 million in sales tax revenue for the veterans’ long-term care facility, and the Florida Legislature has appropriated $10.5 million for the project. To receive federal funding for the project, the FDVA applied for $74 million in federal funds to build the long-term care facility.

The veterans long-term care facility will offer 120 care beds in two “neighborhoods” of 60 beds each. Each of these neighborhoods will have its own pavilions and gardens, libraries and computer labs, and a dedicated sensory therapy room called a Snoezelen room. The neighborhoods will also be connected to a “community center” that will offer amenities such as a cafe, sports bar, chapel and hair salon. Outpatient services are planned, including day care for all of the county’s veterans. The adult day care portion of the facility will offer approximately 45 spaces so caregivers can continue to work and/or take a well-deserved break from caring for their loved ones.

In addition, the county has designated a building near the long-term care facility as a “Veterans Services and Community Center.” The county’s Veterans Services offices and offerings will be expanded and relocated from the county’s main campus to this facility on Golden Gate Parkway.

The Veteran Services and Community Center will also be the new home of the Military and First Responders Museum. This facility will provide a network of service providers to improve veterans’ access to food, healthcare, financial and legal assistance, and housing and employment services. The building would also provide meeting space for various local veterans support groups to improve the county’s service coordination.

With the help and political support of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, a $9 million Community Project Funding request for renovation of the Veteran Services and Community Center was submitted to the FY 2025 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee. Congressman Diaz-Balart is the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the THUD Subcommittee.

If the VA awards the construction costs and Congress appropriates the $9 million for the Veteran Community and Services Center, Collier County would become a national leader in veterans care.

You deserve it. Together we will do it!

Burt Saunders is a county commissioner for Collier County, District 3.

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