A pair of former Georgia governors, a Democrat and a Republican, are bridging party lines to raise $150 million for an effort in Walker County to provide health care, education and jobs training to veterans and others.

Former Govs. Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal will co-chair Healthy Foundations’ capital campaign related to its planned 374-acre campus outside of LaFayette, officials said Tuesday.

“Healthy Foundations will be meeting regional needs that will make individuals and our communities stronger,” said Barnes, a Democrat who served as governor from 1999 to 2003.

Deal, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2019, said the issues of homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), jobs training, education, housing and health care aren’t Democratic or Republican issues.

“They are our issues,” he said.

The timeline to raise the money is three years, organizers said.

Healthy Foundations President Terry Tucker said it’s incumbent to provide services to those who’ve served and protected the country and community.

“As we shared our plans for the campus with Govs. Barnes and Deal, both not only offered their support but their commitment to achieving this goal,” he said.

From young adults aging out of the foster care system to homeless veterans, first responders and families in crisis, the Healthy Foundations site will offer programs designed to meet individual needs with a goal of working toward self-sustainability, officials said.

A tract of farm land off Burnt Mill Road was purchased a year ago after an earlier effort to build a 200-acre campus in Catoosa County was dropped in 2019 when neighbors objected to the project.

Construction in Walker County is to start this year with sewer and utility infrastructure followed by building work.

The Collective Integrative Healthcare Building and Clinic, the site of assessments of people entering the campus and of behavioral programs, will go up first. It’s expected to open in mid-to-late summer 2022, officials said.

The Veterans Village, which will provide temporary housing, will open the following Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

When the campus is all built out, it will hold facilities for about 1,200 people and have 250 employees, officials said.

Veterans from Georgia or Southeast Tennessee can be referred by partner agencies to the campus, organizers said. The location will provide on-site medical and behavioral health care as well as help people complete paperwork to receive earned benefits in order to maintain their independence.

For those facing challenges with homelessness, jobs training or PTSD, Healthy Foundations plans to work with veterans support organizations. The Veterans Village is supported by Chattanooga Unite Veterans Resource and by Frontline Response of Atlanta.

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Mickey McCamish of Chattanooga Unite, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits that helps meet veterans’ needs, cited the importance of the relationship with Healthy Foundations.

“We were thrilled to learn about Healthy Foundations’ plans for the area,” McCamish said. “Many of our veterans need assistance with accessibility issues, homelessness or challenges in working through government bureaucracy to meet their most basic needs. Veterans’ needs are unique. Healthy Foundations is in a position to help.”

Tucker said the site will begin with an initial or additional assessment of individuals referred to it and identify the support network needed.

“In the case of our veterans, we may work with [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] … to provide housing vouchers or through the local VFW to determine potential employment opportunities,” he said.

For first responders, Healthy Foundations may be able to assist with housing, educational or job training to take them to the next chapter in their career, Tucker said.

“Our team is uniquely trained and qualified to meet the needs of those who will come through our doors,” he said.

Healthy Foundations is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit and an initiative of North Georgia Healthcare Center.

Last month, Healthy Foundations received a $25,000 donation from Peach State Health Initiative, one of Georgia’s biggest managed care organizations.

DeLaine Hunter, chief executive of Healthy Foundations, said the days ahead will be filled with work to meet operational needs.

“However, what drives all of us is the opportunity to help others become healthy, sustained, working members of the community, and for us there’s simply no higher calling.”

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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