Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr

Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr talks with Judy Brayton, a 26-plus year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard and current patient at Cheyenne VA Community Living Center on Monday, June 10, 2019, at the new wing of the center. The center’s grand opening was Monday and will increase the number of beds at the center by 12, ensuring every patient has their own room. Ramsey Scott/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – After Monday’s unveiling of a new nursing wing at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Community Living Center, 24 veterans will finally have rooms all to themselves.

The new addition to the center adds 12 rooms designed to provide veterans with the latest in medical care, and are designed specifically for residents who have issues with mobility. The new addition, along with providing better mobility and access for patients, means the 24 veterans who have been sharing rooms can finally have their own space.

“What this does is allows us to take everyone who’s been doubled up in our existing community living center and then break them up,” said Paul Roberts, medical center director for the Cheyenne VA health-care system. “Everyone gets their own private room now.”

The addition was the first phase of a two-phase plan to upgrade facilities at the VA Community Living Center, Roberts said. This first phase came in at about $9 million and the next phase, which will start shortly, should be between $20 to $30 million. That appropriation is already secured.

“Within probably 2 to 2½ years, we’ll have an additional 30 beds built right here next to this complex. Then what we’ll do is take all of those residents in that older wing and move them here,” Roberts said. “Ultimately we will end up with 50 beds, eight of which are for hospice. And if we don’t have hospice, those can be used for residents.

“Everyone will be in a new state-of-the-art private room.”

Ron Gerber, an Army veteran who served in the late 1960s, will be one of the 12 patients who will be staying in the new wing. He said he was happy to be able to move into his new accommodations and had been looking forward to the opening.

“It’s exciting to get a new room I guess,” Gerber said. “It feels pretty good to get my own space again.”

Gerber’s sister-in-law, Connie Gerber, was on hand for the unveiling and she and the rest of the family have been looking forward to him having his own room.

“It’s going to be better. He’ll have a little more space and a private room, and he’ll be able to have more of his own things around him,” Connie Gerber said. “It will be much more homey for him.”

The new addition is centered around the needs of those veterans who are long-term residents and are staying at the center while receiving care. Each room is equipped with their own personal medicine locker, multiple devices to allow veterans ease of access both to and from their bed, along with items like flatscreen televisions.

“It has to do with overall quality of life. When they’re at the point in their journey in their life, we just think it’s important to have autonomy and be able to control some of your own destiny and not be restrained,” Roberts said. “That’s where this whole open concept (design). This is literally their home. It’s not a lockdown nursing home. It’s their residence and it’s designed for them.”

Even for those veterans at the center who are not part of the expansion and are not long-term patients, Monday’s unveiling meant their friends and fellow soldiers would be receiving the best level of care.

“It will give them more privacy and over here they’ll have their own showers. We have bathrooms but we don’t have a shower on the other side,” said Judy Brayton, a patient at the center and a 26½-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard. “It will make it so much better.”

Brayton and her sister, Joyce Hopkins, a patient and 26½-year veteran herself of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, both said they were very happy that one of the 12 beds went to the other female veteran in the center.

With the growing need for facilities to care for Wyoming’s veteran population as they continue to age, Roberts said the Wyoming VA is working with both federal and state partners to create multiple resources for veterans to use. He pointed to this new expansion and the proposed new skilled nursing facility for veterans as two examples of building and improving capacity on the state level.

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