WHITE CITY — If Max McIntosh has his way, Oregon's next state veterans home will be in the Rogue Valley.

WHITE CITY — If Max McIntosh has his way, Oregon's next state veterans home will be in the Rogue Valley.

The director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics is leading a community-backed effort to have a state veterans home built at the SORCC in White City.

The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs has applied for a federal grant to build a 250-bed veterans home somewhere in Oregon to complement its only state-operated veterans home, a 151-bed facility in The Dalles. The ODVA is now looking for a location for the new facility.

"This is one of those critical moments in time," McIntosh said. "If the decision is made to place the state veterans home here, it is a critical moment to push the economic engine here forward for the long term. And it's critical for future health care employees in the region."

The facility would call for 231 full-time staff members earning some $10.8 million annually, not including other operating expenses such as maintenance and food, according to SORCC estimates. Since those funds tend to percolate three to five times through a region, that would mean an economic boost of $30 million to $50 million each year, McIntosh said.

For the state, the new veterans home would be in a secure location which already has a national reputation for providing quality care to veterans, he said. The SORCC was recently notified it has received a Carey Award for performance achievement, marking the third consecutive year the facility has earned a national honor.

"One of the big features we have is access," McIntosh said, referring to the nearby Medford airport and Interstate 5. "It's a wonderful hub, economically and culturally. It would be an excellent selection."

The proposal to build the state veterans home in White City has the backing of local veterans groups, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the local chamber of commerce, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River and others.

"I think it's a fabulous idea," said Marty Kimmel, the veterans service officer for Jackson County. "There is a huge need for it by the veterans population down here. The biggest concern people have is where the state veterans home we have now is located. You can't just pop in the car and be there. It's too far away.

There are more than 40,000 veterans in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake counties, according to the SORCC. The home would be available to veterans statewide.

The proposed state veterans home site would be on undeveloped land on the north end of the 145-acre SORCC just west of the baseball stadium. The location would allow the facility to have its own entrance and exit, McIntosh said.

"We have ample land to place the structure," he said.

The land would be available through an enhanced use lease which means the state wouldn't have to purchase the land, he said.

"We have built-in security here as well as many programs that are very complementary to the mission (of helping veterans)," he said.

The SORCC currently has on-site primary care, limited specialty care and recreational services. Plans call for a rehabilitation hospital to be established for its traumatic brain injury program within a decade.

In addition, the SORCC has vocational rehabilitation and therapy-based programs which could offer the home housekeeping, janitorial, landscaping and grounds maintenance services, McIntosh said.

"One of the keys is that we have a lot of training programs that result in partnerships between ODVA and us," observed SORCC spokeswoman Anna Diehl. "A lot of what we have to offer the ODVA would be a cost saving to them."

The bottom line is it would be a boost to veterans as well as the region, McIntosh concluded.

"One of our missions is to be supportive of the community in ways that compliment our own mission — this would have a huge economic positive impact on Jackson County and the greater Medford area," he said.

Of the 14,400 veterans enrolled at the SORCC, the bulk are outpatients, while residential care is provided to as many as 1,500 patients each year. The residential patient population averages around 530 veterans on any given day.

The SORCC's annual budget is now about $60 million.

Established as the Army's Camp White training site during World War II, the SORCC opened as a domiciliary on Feb. 20, 1949. It is one of three federal VA facilities in Oregon, including a secondary care center in Roseburg and a large regional hospital in Portland.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.