Advocates join forces in hopes of saving Chillicothe VA Medical Center from closure

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Adrienne D’Souza, like many children from military families, has moved around a lot. When his father was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, it became his home. Wright-Patt was his father’s last stop. When he retired from the army, he moved with his family to Chillicothe to be closer to other relatives in the area. D’Souza has made Chillicothe her home and since the late 1970s has been actively involved in improving the community.

“I am the president of the Ross County NAACP and also work at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library. I have been here for over 31 years. I sit on the United Way Ross County Board of Directors. I serve on the board of directors for the American Red Cross of South-Central Ohio and the board of directors for the Carver Community Center,” D’Souza said.

D’Souza has joined a chorus of community members fighting to have the Chillicothe VA removed from a list that recommends its closure. She has a special connection to the hospital where her mother worked as a nurse for many years and where her father spent many years due to illness.

“We started to see things happening with my dad’s health; we noticed he was moving slower, his hands had started having little tremors and his health was starting to decline. I think my brothers and I were in denial, but my mom, being a nurse, she knew what was going on with my dad,” she said.

D’Souza’s father, Senior Staff Sergeant. Robert Robinson Sr. was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. D’Souza doesn’t believe his father could have received the same quality of care he received from the Chillicothe VA elsewhere.

“He received the best treatment, and I tell you, this staff, they treated my dad with so much love, respect and integrity. Even in his later stages, when my dad couldn’t really eat, they would take the time to puree his food,” D’Souza said.

D’Souza said that in meetings she attended, other vets like her father said the same thing. They have established a relationship with the staff at Chillicothe VA and many are afraid of what might happen if the facility closes.

“I hear the same thing over and over and over again. The vets get really good treatment here at Chillicothe VA. They keep saying they don’t want to travel. They’re afraid to go to Dayton VA. They don’t like the neighborhood it’s in,” D’Souza said.

D’souza said if they lost the medical facility, their community would likely never be the same again.

“A lady said her husband is in the late stages of the disease he has, and she said if this VA ends up closing, she doesn’t know what she will do. It’s stories like that that are so heartbreaking,” D’souza said.

As head of the Chillicothe NAACP, D’Souza will meet with leaders of the civil rights organization this week to discuss what steps they can take to save the facility.

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