Michigan Veterans Affairs AgencyMichigan is starting a major revamp of how nursing care is provided to veterans, with plans to ultimately transition from two homes in the western and far-northern regions to seven new, smaller ones spread across the state, according to the Detroit News.

The initiative — billed as the most substantial change to the system since the first veterans home opened in Grand Rapids 131 years ago — stems from new, bipartisan state laws that officials say will lead to higher-quality care for more veterans. Talks began last year after a state audit uncovered insufficient care, inadequate staffing levels and other problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

That home and one in Marquette, which opened in 1981, provide primarily nursing care to more than 500 veterans. They often choose to live there because the government-subsidized care costs them no more than $4,300 a year. The homes also are seen as more equipped to treat a population with higher rates of mental health, substance abuse and behavioral problems than at private facilities.

In recent weeks, the agency applied for roughly $66 million in federal funding to help build a new home in the Detroit area and to replace and downsize the one in Grand Rapids. A third of the state’s 640,000 veterans live in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

The application also outlines a plan to build five more facilities in phases — first in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City area, next the Jackson/Battle Creek region, then a replacement of the Marquette home, followed by one in the northern Lower Peninsula and finally another in metro Detroit.

Multi-story, hospital-like buildings would be jettisoned for modern houses that are more like a real “home.” Ten to 14 residents in a large house would each have an individual bedroom and bathroom, surrounding a common living and dining area with a kitchen.

The overhaul comes as veterans homes grapple with rising health care costs, an increasing inability of residents to afford the care and standards that are out of step with best practices within the long-term care industry.