FORT SMITH — Veterans now have access to expanded services in the River Valley area.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs held a ribbon cutting Friday to celebrate the completion of the Community Outpatient Clinic at 5500 Phoenix Ave. at Fort Smith.
Kimberly Lane, acting director of the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks Medical Center, said the move and expansion of the clinic’s location at 1500 Dodson Ave. were requested in 2015. She said the new location expands the clinic from 19,000 to 34,000 square feet and allows staff to continue providing services in addition to eye care, audiology and women’s health. .
Lane said Baptist Health-Fort Smith helped the clinic provide services while the new building was under construction, and the VA Clinic will continue to partner for services it does not provide. She also thanked Fort Smith, Next Step Day Room, Hope Campus and the Public Housing Authority for providing community support to veterans.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to do the right thing for those who have served us,” Lane said. “In this state-of-the-art building, we will also have peer support, telemedicine, program services for the homeless, primary home care – which is primary care delivered directly to the home for our veterans – evidenced by practice-based practices and, of course, the dedicated staff who will go above and beyond to do the right thing for veterans and their families.”
Jacque Long, facilities planner with the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the clinic is expected to serve about 10,000 veterans in the River Valley.
“I think we have 30,000 veterans in the area, so I think because of the quality of care that we’re going to be providing, we’re going to be able to get more people into the VA system, which is very, very important,” said U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Rogers.
“I certainly hope that as we continue to add more veterans to the service clinic, we can add even more additional specialty care services to provide veteran care so that you don’t don’t have to travel,” said Skye McDougall, director of the Veterans Integrated Services Network 16. “One of our main goals is to provide timely care and reduce wait times for care. , and this clinic is an example of the improvements we are making across the country to provide access to care.”
Boozman said many veterans find themselves in situations where they depend on others to care for them, so having a local facility reduces the burden of having to travel to Fayetteville or Little Rock for care.
Jerry Wilkinson, a veteran who spent 20 years on active duty and used the veterans clinic for 15 years, said it also relieved the financial burden of paying for accommodation while traveling.
“It’s just going to make it a lot easier, and I think the treatment will be better. I think the services will be great here,” Wilkinson said.
“The other thing that’s so special about this clinic is that we have a lot of female veterans who have served,” Boozman said. “When the VA system was developed, that wasn’t the case. It was predominantly male. So, therefore, it was very male-oriented. Again, over the past few years, the VA has been working very hard, and we’re going to have as good feminine care as anywhere. That’s our commitment.
“They are now our largest and growing number of veterans, so we’re very happy to have been able to add cutting-edge services here,” McDougall said.
“I also feel a deep sense of pride that the clinic is located in a city that is so supportive of our veterans,” she added. “It means so much to all of us in the VA.”