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Vineland’s Veterans Memorial Home is Held as a Statewide Model

A bill has been approved by the New Jersey State Senate that essentially requires the New Jersey veterans memorial homes in Menlo Park and Paramus to emulate the home in Vineland in control of infectious diseases. The veterans homes in New Jersey, which are nursing homes for veterans, have had the highest death rates in the country for the pandemic. As many as 200 lives were claimed by COVID-19 at the three veterans homes.

Lawyers representing dozens of families that sued the state suggested that the toll really might be about 240. Although the Vineland facility suffered the loss of 23 residents and one employee since the pandemic began, the other facilities were devastated by COVID-19.

The bill, if passed, would require the veterans homes in Menlo Park and Paramus to to help control the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The two northern NJ Veterans Homes are the focus of the bill sponsored by Senator Joseph Cryon D-Union.

Vineland houses 203 residents right now, Menlo Park has 187 and Paramus 182. Vineland employs 525 workers, compared to Menlo Park’s 431 and Paramus’ 416.

“It is our intention to close the gap between Vineland and Paramus and Menlo Park,” said Cryon, who chairs the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs committee, where the bill passed by a 5-0 vote.

The bill would require the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to convert one ward in each facility to solo bedrooms and upgrade the heating ventilation and air conditioning systems to infection control standards. If the renovations and improvements are not completed within a year, the adjutant general, Brigadier General Lisa Jay, who oversees the department, would be called before the legislature to describe the reason for the delay.

Paramus and Menlo Park each received a two-star quality rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, compared to Vineland’s five-star rating.

The Murphy administration has paid out collectively nearly $69 million to settle a series of lawsuits filed by the families of 190 deceased Veterans Home’s residents in Menlo Park and Paramus. A federal investigation into the deaths at those two facilities is still ongoing, as are two separate state investigations. In addition, the health department suspended new admissions at Menlo Park following an inspection report that, in addition to the year’s long outbreak, found serious health and safety violations.

A version of this content first appeared in Stars and Stripes.