County residents, family members and veterans organizations testify in support of bill to save the Caribou Veterans’ Home

AUGUSTA – A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, intended to prevent the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias from closing, received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Aroostook County residents, families, veterans advocacy organizations and health care professionals overwhelmingly testified in support of the measure.

The bill – LD 2001, “An Act To Fund and Support the Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias and Require Legislative Approval for the Establishment and Closure of Veterans Homes” – would require the Board of Maine Veterans’ Homes to seek legislative approval to close any of the long-term care facilities caring for veterans and their spouses. It also provides funding for the facilities in Caribou and Machias in order to support continued operations.

Here are what some of the supporters are saying about the proposed legislation and the abrupt closure of the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias:

Congressman Jared Golden, CD 2 via written testimony

“I write to share my strong support for L.D. 2001, “An Act To An Act To Fund and Support the Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias and Require Legislative Approval for the Establishment and Closure of Veterans Homes,” introduced by Senator Troy Jackson. As you know, the Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) were established by the State Legislature in 1977 to provide long-term care and services to Maine veterans and their families. Central to its mandate is a profound moral obligation to promote the well-being and dignity of Mainers who have served our nation, often in times of war and at great cost. I strongly suspect that the people of Maine agree that we should take every step possible to be there for our veterans when they need us most. If the facilities in Caribou and Machias are operating in the financial red, the last option should be closure – instead, we must search for every other possible solution.”


Aroostook County Board of Commissioners via written testimony:

“The Board of Aroostook County Commissioners have issued the following statement regarding the recent announcement of the closure of the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou: The Board finds the recent announcement regarding the proposed closure of the Caribou Veterans Home to be deeply troubling to our County and the men and women who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. The announcement does not give our citizens many options and very little notice to react thoughtfully. The residents of Aroostook County who will be displaced by this decision and the burden it will put on them and their families can not be put aside. As the elected County Commissioners of Aroostook County, we will advocate to our state and federal delegation members to assist them in finding solutions to assist our Veterans. They have paid the sacrifices of serving our Country, and it is now time to serve them. We support LD 2001 and ask the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs to fully support an ought to pass report.” 


Kris Doody, RN, CEO, Cary Medical Center via written testimony:

“I first want to acknowledge all veterans for their service, their sacrifices and commitment to our country. I also want to thank you, Senator Jackson, for elevating this critical issue to help stop the proceedings to close these critical homes located in rural Maine. One member of my administrative team, Bill Flagg, Director of Community Relations, has worked tirelessly for more than forty years with the Aroostook County Veterans for the Maine Veterans’ Home, Project ARCH, VA Clinic and the Veterans Homeless Shelter. Since the information of the possible closure was released, I have heard from families, employees, community citizens and veterans about the importance of saving these homes. Please know Cary Medical Center, its Board of Directors, the administrative team and our staff appreciate the strong bonds that have been created for decades with the Maine Veterans Home that is attached to our hospital. I urge you, please help our Veterans of Northern and Eastern Maine and support this bill as an effort to slow or stop the closure of these two homes.”


Maj. Gen. Douglas A. Farnham, Commissioner, Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management via written testimony:

“But we believe that the Board would benefit from additional time and information to help inform a decision of this magnitude. We are willing to work closely with Maine Veterans’ Homes leadership and the Board and are willing to invest to make these locations viable in the short run until long-term solutions on the future of these homes can be reached. We can also convene other agencies, as well as the Maine Congressional delegation, that may present other solutions to this problem. We believe there is an opportunity, working closely with Senator Jackson, whom we applaud for putting forward this legislation, and the Maine Veterans’ Homes leadership and its Board, to find a path forward to protect the interests of our veterans and keep these homes open.”


Brenda Gallant, Maine Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program:

“If Caribou and Machias are closed, it would be important for residents to have access to the same specialized care they have been receiving. The memory care homes closest to Machias are located in Brewer and Bangor and are approximately 84-87 miles away. The closest memory care home to Caribou is in Frenchville and is approximately 43 miles away. Otherwise, the closest is located in Bangor at approximately 170 miles away. These distances must be considered and will likely be a hardship for families who want to visit. While there may be closer placements that residents could potentially be moved to, these homes are not specialized memory care units. Additionally, there are very few, if any, available openings in these homes. In our experience, Maine Veterans’ Homes provide high-quality care. We appreciate their commitment to Maine’s veterans. We believe that keeping both Caribou and Machias open is the right thing to do. Fortunately, there is much support to prevent the closure of these homes. We are failing these residents and their family members if we do not do everything possible to work together to find a solution to keep these homes open.”


Debra Couture, Commander of The American Legion, Department of Maine via written testimony:

“The American Legion is vehemently opposed to the closure of the Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) in Caribou and Machias. This closure affects a third (two out of six) Maine Veterans’ Homes in the State. These closures will affect the most vulnerable of Maine’s Veteran populations. Along with The American Legion, all four members of Congress, as well as the current and past Governors of our State have appealed to the Maine Veterans Home board to rethink this abhorrent decision and its cascading negative effects on our elderly and disabled veteran population. Every effort must be made to ensure continued funding, and adequate staffing of these vital facilities; especially given the lack of options for all seniors in Maine; and in Aroostook and Washington Counties in particular. The Caribou MVH has provided assisted living/residential care, long-term care, short-term skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, therapy, and dementia and memory care and respite care since its opening in 1990. The Machias MVH has provided assisted living and residential care and dementia and memory care since 2005. These services are vital to our veterans in these two counties.”


James Gehring, Service Officer for the Aroostook Veterans Alliance via written testimony:

“While the veteran population is shrinking, the demand for medical care will increase. If the VA would lower the percentage to allow more veterans into nursing homes, there would be very few empty beds. If the Caribou facility is closed, veterans’ families will be required to travel from two to five hours or longer to visit their relatives. While the veteran community is made up of different organizations, we do stand together in support of keeping these homes open.”


Joe Michaud, The American Legion via written testimony:

“Nursing home beds are hard to come by, there is a shortage. The decision to close the homes does not provide enough time to resettle the residents. Relocating residents will be traumatic for them and their families. Our veterans came to the aid of our nation when they were called. Many did not return home, many returned home permanently changed due to PTSD, injuries of war and others returned counting on the promise made to them, that the veteran and his family would be taken care of in thanks for their service. The American Legion, Department of Maine stands with all of our veterans, their families and communities in support of LD 2001 and we will fight to keep the Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias open.”


Wayne Little, United Veterans of Maine, via written testimony:

“The UVM is an organization of Veterans Helping Veterans and we stand with our other veterans organizations in Aroostook County in support of LD 2001. I have had personal experience with the Caribou Maine Veterans Home transferring my brother to the facility several years ago. While he has since passed, he always talked about how well he was cared for by both the Veterans’ Home and their staff as well as the hospital, Cary Medical Center. Having him so close to us allowed us to visit with him often and maintain a strong relationship. The staff at the home were sensitive to the fact that my brother was a veteran that had served his country and now, in his time of need, they and the home were there to take care of him … The Caribou Veterans’ Home has become part of our Veterans Family. The people that work there too are part of our Veterans family and community. The United Veterans of Maine is a relatively new organization, but we are strong supporters of our Veterans and we urge our legislature to support this bill and keep our Veterans’ Homes open.”


John Nadeau, DO, Cary Medical Center via written testimony:

“I am a surgeon practicing at Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Maine. I am a native-born Mainer. Wisdom High School graduate in St. Agatha. I was a member of the Maine Air National Guard retired in 2017 from the Army Reserve. A medical officer, I was deployed to Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Many in my family have served in the Army, Army National Guard, and Marines, some doing multiple deployments in recent wars. We are all proud of our time in the military. Yesterday, we discovered (online news) that the Maine Vets Home in Caribou and Machias are closing. This is extremely disheartening. This is very personal for my family and I since my parents are currently living out their final days at this Home. My father served in the Army and fought during the Korean War … I am dumbfounded to hear that these closures are due to a lack of funding. Is this really what this country has turned into? Where you serve with pride, promised you will be cared for in your later years, then abandoned due to lack of funding.”


David Keaton, a family member of a Caribou Veterans’ Home resident via written testimony:

“My mother currently is a long-term resident of Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou. She is 92 years old. My siblings and I were shocked to learn that the operator of the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou has stated their intention to close the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou and Machias last week. My Mom is confined to her bed and needs around the clock care and has come to value the level of care she has received at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou … When the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou opened, I was grateful we were providing those who served our country with a level of care they deserved in their golden years. I have serious concerns about closing a facility, in just a matter of months, that the current Maine Veterans’ Home residents believed they would stay and be cared for the remainder of their lives. I consider this proposed closure action as morally wrong and strongly support Senator Jackson’s bill L.D. 2001.”


Brianna G. Jarman, CNA II/CRMA, Caribou Veterans’ Home via written testimony:

“I am so proud to be a part of a workplace that truly takes pride in their care for the veterans of Aroostook county. So please take into account how many amazing veterans need this home and do not want to leave. To see these veterans scared and worried about losing their home and moving who knows where- I refuse to stand aside and be quiet. Thank you for taking the time to read this testimony, I hope you take into consideration how this would be beneficial to keep MVH Caribou.”


Lucas Cooper, Caribou Veterans’ Home via written testimony:

“My name is Lucas Cooper from Caribou, Maine and I am currently employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Maine Veterans’ Homes-Caribou. I am here to voice my support of Legislative Document number 2001 providing funding and supporting the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias. My journey with MVH first began in March of 2019 when I signed on to take their ‘learn as you earn’ course where you learned how to become a CNA while also gaining invaluable experience and on the job training. After completing the program and earning my certificate, I began to work on the skilled care side and form many bonds with the residents. I learned quickly that it’s more than just washing, feeding, and changing these people. It’s about being there for them when no one else is. It’s about being their family when their real family can’t always come to visit.”


Business Investment Group in Caribou via written testimony:

“While we understand Maine Veterans’ Homes (MVH) has a challenging mission of providing the long-term housing and health care needs of our aging veterans, the economic environment has changed significantly in recent years and specifically in the last two years. Because of this, an organization like MVH should be required to obtain legislative approval for the establishment or closure of a facility managed by their board. This would allow for the additional oversight and time which are required to solve their complicated problems. Further, this bill provides emergency funding which will hopefully delay or at best reverse MVH’s impetuous decision to shutter the Caribou and Machias facilities. The members of BIG are available to the stakeholders of the MVH Caribou facility to participate in any way possible to assist in keeping our Aroostook County veterans in their home and retaining the local employees as well preserving all the complementary economic benefits the MVH Caribou facility provides to our community.”

LD 2001 will be the subject of additional work sessions in the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.




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