FORT SMITH — Veterans now have access to expanded services in the River Valley area.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs celebrated 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 – in witness practice-based practices and, of course, 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-Arkansas.
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, 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.