Casper likely will be in the running again for a $23 million, 36-bed skilled nursing facility for veterans because it's the best city for health care, transportation, and its central location, a local state senator said Tuesday.

"That's what we need to worry about is how is a veteran going to be served best where he has medical facilities, where he has enough personnel to take care of him," Republican Sen. Jim Anderson said.

A lot of people plan to testify about House Bill 82 before the Senate Transportation, Highway and Military Affairs Committee after the session ends at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. Feb. 6, Anderson said.

Sen. Jim Anderson SD 28 Legislative Service Office

In October, a Wyoming Department of Health report, with the assistance of the Wyoming Veterans Commission and the State Construction Department, identified Casper, Buffalo and Sheridan as the best locations for veterans to have access to a subsidized long-term care benefit that they cannot receive today.

Buffalo has the assisted living Veterans' Home, and Sheridan has the Veterans Administration Medical Center for mental health services.

Casper tentatively was chosen as the location, but the House last week amended HB 82 to place the skilled nursing facility in Buffalo.

Casper officials have lobbied for the skilled nursing facility to be located here.

Anderson said there are good reasons for that, partly because Buffalo doesn't have the necessary workforce.

Casper has about 860 medical personnel, while Buffalo has 104, he said. "There's no way they can compete."

Administrators from the hospital in Buffalo and the two nursing homes there already have testified that they currently don't have enough people to staff their facilities adding they must bring in expensive traveling nurses, Anderson said. "If we put that facility there it probably will close down the private (nursing home)."

Casper already has the specialists for specialized medical care, which Veterans' Home residents already use after driving two hours on Interstate 25.

It also has the land.

Buffalo has land with its Veterans' Home.

But the City of Casper has offered nine acres at 12th and Conwell streets, which is 10 blocks south of the Wyoming Medical Center, Anderson said.

Politically, he said a majority of senators probably will favor the Casper location.

If the Senate Transportation, Highway and Military Affairs Committee decides in Casper's favor, and the full Senate follows suit, the bill will go to a conference committee, Anderson said. Casper has an advantage with that, too, because Casper Rep. Steve Harshman and Sen. Drew Perkins have the authority to appoint who serves on that conference committee, he added. "We think we can win that one, also."

The tentative plans for the approximately $23 million skilled nursing home would be based on a "Green House" model with three pods of 12 beds each to create a more homelike environment, Anderson said.

The state would pay for about $7 million of the total, with the rest funded by the U.S. Veterans Administration. The VA covers all the other expenses for the operations, he said. "That's the beauty of this facility is that it's self-sufficient; they pay a high daily fee for this skilled nursing facility -- that's why everybody wants it."

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