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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran seeks $85 million for veterans services at NUMC

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is calling for $85 million in federal funding from President Biden's infrastructure bill to expand veterans health services at Nassau University Medical Center, the county's only public hospital.

In a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Curran said the hospital could serve as an "important satellite" to the federally funded and operated Northport VA Medical Center, allowing Nassau veterans access to more comprehensive care.

NUMC is run by NuHealth, a state public benefit corporation that also operates the A. Holly Patterson nursing home in Uniondale.

NuHealth has struggled with large annual operating deficits.

Curran said the federal funding would allow NuHealth to provide specialized care to military veterans at NUMC, located in East Meadow.

Another initiative would create a "veteran village" housing development in unused apartments on NUMC grounds.

The federal money also would be used to create an adult day care program for veterans, Curran said.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinic at NUMC provides veterans with primary care. But the clinic does not offer specialty services, such as care for health issues requiring advanced medical treatment, Nassau County spokesman Michael Fricchione said.

"Through a hybrid healthcare model that preserves the hospital's mission of serving the most vulnerable, services can be expanded to include direct health care services to thousands of veterans each year," Curran wrote to Schumer.

"With your support, this center can become an important satellite to the Northport VA Hospital and a resource for many veterans who require treatment but find it out-of-reach due to distance constraints," Curran said.

Nassau is considering "a hybrid model because we want to keep the safety net feature of the hospital, and I think it is a very good option for the hospital to keep doing what it does best, and that's to provide care for the vulnerable."

Curran, a Democrat who is seeking reelection in November, appoints the NuHealth board chairman and other trustees, and must sign off on the appointment of NUMC's chief executive and president.

In February, a consultant hired by the hospital's financial control board said the institution could not survive without major changes, including closure of the emergency room, reduction of hospital staff from 3,400 to about 300 and sale of the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility.

A Manhattan consulting firm said the best option for NUMC would be to operate as a behavioral health center, focused on treating patients with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The consultants' report did not mention expansion of treatment for veterans.

In an interview, Curran said her pitch for expanded veterans services at NUMC, is "an option that I am now bringing to the table."

She said she was "looking to keep the safety net features of the hospital intact."

Curran said the funding would help make use of "acres of space ... Not all of them are used very well."

Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said in a statement: "We are reviewing the letter and will always work to support veterans healthcare across Long Island and beyond."

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