State begins needs assessment for Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19

  • An ambulance arrives at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke on March 31, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2020 11:47:41 AM

HOLYOKE — The state is calling for public participation in a needs assessment as it begins “reimagining the future” of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

The needs assessment survey is part of the “rapid planning phase” of an expedited capital project the state is planning for the Soldiers’ Home, which earlier this year experienced one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country. The architectural firm Payette is conducting the planning phase, which is expected to be complete in time for an April 15, 2021 deadline for a federal construction grant.

The survey can be found at mass.gov/reimagining-the-future-of-the-soldiers-home-in-holyoke. The state also has created an email address as an additional channel for collecting community input. The email is HolyokeSHProject@mass.gov.

Advocates in western Massachusetts have been pressing the state for years to make improvements at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. In particular, the group Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition has pushed for the state to step up in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home, which left at least 76 veteran residents dead.

“Adult Day Healthcare, enhanced behavioral health services and services for veterans requiring our state’s help with substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries must be part of any plan moving forward,” the coalition said in a statement when the state announced it had awarded a contract to Payette to oversee the planning phase. “This is our state’s moment to get it right.”

That engagement work is expected to take 12 weeks, according to the Baker administration. After that process is complete, the state said it will prioritize infection control in whatever upgrades it makes.

The coalition has said it hopes to be part of the input process. The group has also raised concerns about the possibility of the state reducing the size and bed capacity of the Soldiers’ Home.

The community engagement work is expected to take 12 weeks, according to the Baker administration. 

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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