NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ new veterans home will provide high-quality care for men and women who have served their country to protect our freedoms, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday during a Veterans Day ceremony at the new facility.
“Today is special because we open the Arkansas Veterans Home in North Little Rock,” Hutchinson said. “This facility is incredible. For all of you that supported it, this is a day that we can rejoice that we have done something that our veterans have wanted, that they have supported and that will serve them into the future.”
The facility replaces the veterans home in Little Rock that was shut down in October 2012. Located on 31 acres on the former Emerald Park Golf Course, the site includes eight separate homes with the capacity to serve 12 residents each.
Construction of the $20.5 million facility began in July 2015. The nursing home will serve veterans, veterans’ spouses and Gold Star family members. The first residents are expected to move in next month.
“The 31-acre site here will allow for future expansion, with space to construct an additional four small homes,” Hutchinson said.
Arkansas is home to about 250,000 veterans. Another state veterans hospital operates in Fayetteville.
The Veterans Day ceremony was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Other elected officials in attendance included U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both R-Ark., U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith.
Smith said the facility is “first-class and much needed.”
“It’s called a home because that’s what it is, and this will be a beautiful home for our veterans,” he said.
Bill Wussick, assistant director of veterans cemeteries, said in an interview the facility will provide “the opportunity to step up the level of care for veterans that we have not been able to do in the past.”
The 14,000-square-foot homes have a “small home” design that seeks to provide a warm, home-like environment as opposed to an institutional atmosphere. Kathie Gately, the home’s administrator, said the homes feature a communal area, including a large dining table, and individual rooms.
“Every one of them has a private room, everyone has a private bathroom. They’ll sit down and eat family-style” if they wish and are able, she said.
John Smallwood of Jacksonville, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and co-chairman of a group that is seeking to place a memorial to Gold Star families on the state Capitol grounds, said he was excited to see the new facility.
“We need something like this for veterans. I may end up in one of them,” he said with a laugh.