BY SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Veterans Home Task Force has visited four cities that are competing to be the new location of a nursing home for veterans.
The 22-member task force was created earlier this year in the 2013 legislative session. It will issue a report before October 31. Originally, 34 cities submitted proposals and the task force pared those down to Fort Smith, Haskell (Saline County), Jacksonville and Russellville.
Last year, the state Veterans Affairs Department closed a 100-bed facility in Little Rock because it had fallen into such disrepair that renovations would be too costly. The residents were moved to other long term care facilities around the state and an administrator was terminated for mismanagement of funds.
In the 2013 session, the legislature approved Act 38 to create a task force that will assess what services are needed by disabled and aging Arkansas veterans and how many Arkansas veterans need to live in some type of long-term care facility.
The legislature also passed Act 165, which authorizes the director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs to select a location for the nursing home, after seeking advice from the task force and the Arkansas Veterans Commission, a separate entity that advises the director. The Commission plans to visit a site in Searcy, a location that the task force has not visited because Searcy submitted its proposal after the task force’s deadline.
The competition for the new facility is serious because the nursing home would hire up to 100 people, and likely would generate support jobs in the private sector.
In the 2013 session, the legislature approved Act 988 to finance construction of the nursing home with $7.5 million in state General Improvement Funds and with matching funds from the federal government.
Act 988 authorizes spending up to $14 million in federal funding, and state officials are optimistic that the federal dollars will be approved by Congress.
The state also operates a nursing home for veterans in Fayetteville that opened in 2006 and has 108 beds.
Reparations to Crime Victims
The state attorney general reported that in July the Crime Victims Reparations Board awarded $317,000 to victims of crime in 186 new cases. Also, awards were made in 17 previously submitted cases.
The awards are to help with expenses caused by the crime, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Awards may be spent on mental health counseling.
Most awards are limited to a maximum of $10,000, but in certain cases where a victim has suffered a catastrophic injury the award can be as much as $25,000.
The legislature created the crime victims reparations program in 1987. It is funded from court costs and fines imposed on convicted offenders. Last year almost $4 million was awarded to crime victims.
Move Over for Highway Department Vehicles
Arkansas motorists are used to moving into the left lane when they approach a police car or other emergency vehicles on the shoulders of the highway. In fact, it’s the law.
Now, because of Act 579 of 2013, drivers also must shift lanes to move away from Highway Department trucks and work vehicles of contractors working for the department, such as tow trucks and cherry pickers, when they are flashing an amber, white, green, red or blue light.