Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., will attend a public meeting later this week where the possibility of expanding health care programs for area veterans will be discussed.
The meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, in Building 2 at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
Don Samuelson of Brainerd, a former state legislator, said he's one of a group of area residents working on a plan for uses for space at the treatment center. Samuelson said central Minnesota has the third highest number of veterans with need for special health care.
He encouraged a strong turnout from area citizens to make the case before Oberstar.
The Brainerd and Baxter city councils adopted resolutions last month supporting plans to establish a federal government center at the site of the former state hospital. The resolutions stated the services would include but not be limited to veterans health care facilities and offices for the departments of revenue, agriculture, environment and others.
"That's the key," he said of turnout at the meeting. "It's very key. The resolutions of support aren't worth the paper they're written on unless you follow it up. You've got to follow it up with strong community support. I'm in high hopes that we'll jam that place."
Other organizations that have approved the resolution include the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., the American Legion, the VFW, the 194th Tank Regiment, the Army National Guard, the DAV and Brainerd Trades and Labor.
Samuelson said patients with traumatic brain injuries are currently treated at the center's 20-bed unit but added that number could easily be increased. He's hopeful the Brainerd plan will fit in with the expected economic stimulus package that will be considered by Congress this year.
Samuelson said Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, has already prepared legislation needed for a veterans nursing home component at the treatment center.
A state report made a few years ago concluded that health care programs would be the best use of the space at the treatment center.
"What's frustrating to me is that nothing gets done," Samuelson said. "I'm a fighter. I believe you can do something."
Samuelson estimated earlier that the center employed more than 680 people at its peak and now employs about 190.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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