BUTTE, Mont. — The Montana VA held its grand opening ceremony for the new outpatient clinic in Butte on Friday, with government officials and a number of Montana veterans in attendance. With its wide reach and plethora of services, patient care for veterans in southwestern Montana is expected to be on the rise.
Veterans previously received care at the VA Clinic in Anaconda, but the new Butte site is four times larger and serves up to 2,100 area veterans.
Former Marine Mike Lawson, who cut the red ribbon at the opening ceremony, pushed the completion of the new clinic almost daily. Now that it’s over, he can’t wait to see how veteran care improves.
“Especially veterans with PTSD have issues in that direction,” Lawson said. “They can come here to a nice facility, and they will be treated with respect.”
“‘Treaty’ is a key word,” Lawson added. “They will be treated with respect and dealt with for any issues they face.”
As Lawson noted, mental health care in particular is an issue, as Montana’s veteran suicide rates are among the highest in the nation.
The new clinic seeks to change that, because once it has the right staff, it will offer in-person mental health services, which the Anaconda clinic did not have.
“[We’re] adding mental health services and really getting the message across that all is well and there is help, so we can try to continue to reduce suicides,” said Paul Harman, chief of staff Montana VA Associate for Mental Health “Even one suicide is too much.”
The clinic plans to begin providing patient care on May 10.