FORT SMITH — Veterans now have access to expanded services in the River Valley area.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs celebrated the completion of the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic at 5500 Phoenix Ave. in Fort Smith on Friday.
Kimberly Lane, interim medical center director at Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, said the relocation and expansion from the clinic’s location at 1500 Dodson Ave. was requested in 2015. She said the new location takes the clinic from 19,000 to 34,000 square feet and allows staff to continue the services provided 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 doesn’t provide. She also thanked the Fort Smith, Next Step Day Room, Hope Campus and the Public Housing Authority for providing community support to veterans.
“We are dedicated to doing everything that we possibly can to do the right thing for those who served us,” Lane said. “In this state-of-the-art building, we’ll also have peer support, telemedicine, homeless program services, home-based primary care — which is primary care that is provided directly in the home for our veterans — evidenced-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, facility planner at Department of Veterans Affairs, said the clinic is projected to serve roughly 10,000 veterans in the River Valley.
“I think we’ve got 30,000 veterans in the area, so I think because of the quality of care that we’re going to be offering, we’re going to be able to get more people into the VA system, which is very, very important,” said U.S. Sen John Boozman, R-Arkansas.
Boozman said many veterans are in situations where they depend on others to take care of them, so having a local facility lessens the burden of having to travel to Fayetteville or Little Rock to receive care.
Jerry Wilkinson, a veteran who spent 20 years on active duty and has used the veterans clinic for 15 years, said it also relieves the financial burden of paying for lodging when 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.