Ryan Suggests Repurposing Northside for Veterans

Ryan Suggests Repurposing Northside for Veterans

HOWLAND TOWNSHIP, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said he wants to keep Northside Regional Medical Center on the radar of potential partners in redevelopment of the site when the hospital closes this fall.

To that end, Ryan – joined by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown – sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to promote the possibility of a public-private partnership involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We need to look at as an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the Howland Starbucks.

Northside’s owner, Boston-based Steward Health Care System, announced two weeks ago that it would close the hospital in September.

In the letter, Ryan, Johnson, R-6 Ohio, and Brown, D-Ohio, promoted the possibility of a Veterans Village similar to one of San Diego, which provides housing to homeless veterans. Northside could be used to provide transitional housing for at-risk veterans and supportive services such as substance abuse treatment, the three suggested.

The letter also suggested a partnership with America Makes, the Youngstown-based national manufacturing hub for additive manufacturing, to capitalize on the local asset and establish a center of excellence where prosthetics technologies for wounded soldiers could be developed.

“We need to look at it as an opportunity to maybe attract young workers to our community, doing high-end, cutting-edge research tied to the most progressive additive manufacturing research facility in the country,” Ryan said

The manufacturing hub is doing research into sectors of the economy ranging from energy to health care, he said. “We’re already bringing back tens of millions of dollars in federal money for America Makes,” he said.

Tying that into other federal money for the V.A. could “create a synergy that could lead to some job creation and stabilization of the North Side [of Youngstown] and southern Liberty Township,” he continued.

“The more organizations that you have involved, both public and private sectors, the more sustainable it is over the long term, and the more it’s going to lead to job creation and development and providing the kind of services that we need,” he added.

Another option that has been discussed regarding the hospital building is using it for an expanded clinic to serve local veterans.

Susan Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Administration, said she has heard interest from among veterans in offering expanded mental health services as well as expanding services for female veterans. Moving the clinic into the Northside building would be a “phenomenal idea,” she said.

Parking is one issue with the current site on Oak Hill Avenue, she said. Also, separate entrances for women veterans and for those seeking mental health services might encourage more to be willing to use those services.

“Sometimes when we go to the clinic as women veterans, there is a stigma about us,” she said, “or if you go into the mental health department.”

With the current design, people go into a big waiting room, so when the veterans are called for their particular services everyone knows.

“So a lot of people don’t use the clinic for that reason,” she said.

“We have some veterans going out and talking to other veterans about exactly what they would want in an expanded V.A. clinic, the location they may want,” Ryan said. “We’re in the preliminary stages of that right now. I’m not sure how Northside fits into that but we certainly want the input from the local veterans.”

During his meeting with reporters, Ryan also addressed a CNN story about his pondering another challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or a potential run for the presidency in 2020. Following his unsuccessful challenge to Pelosi in November 2016, he said he has been approached by “a lot of people” who think he needs to do it again, something that will be discussed after the midterm elections November, when Ryan will face Republican Chris DePizzo.

“I have been very clear that I think the Democrats need to find new leadership,” he said. “We need to find more independent-minded Democrats who aren’t afraid to disagree with the party right now because the party hadn’t always lived up to its potential and its promise, delivering to constituents like the ones that I represent. So we’ll talk about that in November.”

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