Marion County is home to approximately 35,695 military veterans. As a county that loves its veterans, it has requested state funding to build a new state veterans’ nursing home.
“Our veterans are always on our mind,” Marion County Commissioner Michelle Stone said. “We are always looking to see how we can improve their lives.”
Ahead of the 2020 legislative session that starts in January, the Marion County Board of Commissioners asked state Rep. Stan McClain to submit an appropriations project request of $750,000 for a state veterans’ nursing home.
“There is such a need in the state of Florida,” said Stone, who this year is the chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners. “That is why Marion County stepped up.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs researched and identified a shortage of about 1,000 veteran beds in Florida.
John Smith is a lobbyist with Peebles, Smith and Matthews, Inc., a Tallahassee lobbying firm that Marion County has hired. Smith said Florida and Texas were two states that the federal agency identified as needing veteran nursing homes. In Florida, Marion’s need for a veterans’ nursing home was ranked second only behind St. Lucie County and ahead of Collier County.
According to the county, if the funding is granted, the nursing home will provide approximately 120 beds for aging military veterans.
Stone said the projected total budget is at $65 million, with an initial $500,000 already going to start the design process.
The new $750,000 request, if the legislature and governor approve it, would be used for beginning construction and further design of the nursing home.
The county also reported there are about 650,000 veterans in a 75-mile radius of Marion County, and nearly 300,000 of those veterans are over the age of 65.
With such a large budget for the project, the federal government will fund 65% of the project while the state of Florida will fund 35%, Stone said.
There is no current timeline for the veterans’ nursing home to be built or to open. The county is waiting for site selection based on three prospective locations, which Stone didn’t detail.
Not only is the nursing home projected to provide about 120 beds, the county also expects it to produce nearly 200 jobs.
“You’re getting a really good, strong return on investment and helping your veterans at the same time,” Smith said.
Along with the potential state veterans’ nursing home, Ocala is getting a new Veterans Affairs clinic.
“It’s a natural fit for (the county) to also have a nursing home go in with the other infrastructure they’ve already put in place,” Smith said.