A dream that has been on the minds of veterans and others in Bulloch County nears reality: a veterans’ outreach clinic will come to Statesboro.
Congressman John Barrow paid a visit to the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Thursday to announce plans for the clinic have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
About 40 veterans and other citizens attended the press conference, eager to learn about a project that many local veterans, led by American Legion Post 90 member Ray Hendrix, have been pushing for years.
“After years of working with local veterans to advocate for the approval of a veterans outreach clinic in Statesboro, I am happy to report that the Department of Veterans Affairs has approved it,” Barrow said. “As the population in Statesboro continues to grow, the need for a local VA clinic grows even more urgent.”
He has known about the project’s approval since September, when he received a letter from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The letter gave a timeline of 12-18 months before the clinic opens, but Ken Foss, executive director of the Charlie Norwood VMAC Clinic in Augusta, said the clinic could open as early as June 2012, in a “best case scenario.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We’re going to make it a reality. The funding is already available.”
The clinic will be the first of its kind in Georgia — a telehealth clinic, where patients communicate with doctors, nurses and other health care providers via computer as an outpost of the Charlie Norwood VAMC Clinic.
The clinic will offer on-site primary care and mental health services as well as provide “patient aligned care teams, rural health, and telehealth initiatives to include specialty and acute mental health services,” Barrow said.
The clinic’s hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., four days a week.
A location has not yet been determined, but Foss said a preferred spot would be leased space within three miles of East Georgia Regional Medical Center. The spot will need to be at least a 2,000 square foot building and will house 6.5 staff, he said.
“This is one of the most wonderful things to happen for the veterans of Bulloch County,” said Bulloch County Commissioner Walter Gibson, who attended the press conference, as did fellow commissioner Roy Thompson.
Gibson said he and the late George Jackson, who was a county commissioner when he died, both worked together to help bring a veteran’s clinic to the area.
“One group of people who need help and attention is the veterans,” he said.
American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Commander Tom Barnard said the news was “fantastic.
“We’ve been looking forward to it,” he said. “There are plenty of veterans who need (medical) attention and won’t have to travel so far to get it.”
The local clinic will definitely make a difference, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.