New VA clinic to open in DickinsonVeterans left without a local health clinic in May should have access to a new one by September if all goes as planned.
Veterans left without a local health clinic in May should have access to a new one by September if all goes as planned.
Congressman Earl Pomeroy and Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad announced a new contract with CRAssociates Tuesday.
Great Plains Clinic served southwestern North Dakota veterans until its contract ended May 1. Veterans then needed to get authorization from the Department of Veterans Affairs to book appointments at private clinics or other VA facilities across the state and region. The VA approved the contract with CRA Monday.
“North Dakota was the most geographically underserved in the United States,” Pomeroy said, adding “The congressional delegation has been pressing hard to get local community-based services in Dickinson.”
The value for the base year and four option years is $6.6 million over the life of the contract, according to a press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The approximate 5,000-square-foot space in a 528 21st St. W building is being gutted and upgraded to accommodate the clinic, which is expected to open in September, CRA Senior Executive Vice President Charles B. Robbins said Tuesday from Virginia, the company’s home base.
“We are well under way to have everything on the fast track,” he said.
The clinic, which is near Remco Software, will offer primary care including mental health services.
Once Great Plains ended its contract, Stark/Dunn County Veterans Service Officer Leslie Ross would get up to 10 calls a day from concerned veterans. She heard about the new clinic Tuesday morning.
Great Plains estimated it served 800 veteran patients. “I have 4,000 case files in my office, so the potential was way higher,” she said.
“I still want them (veterans) to be vigilant and be mindful of the fact that this took a great deal of effort to get this passed and if this is not acceptable to them they need to use their voices,” Ross said.
Robbins said CRA will hire about seven staff members. “We make every effort to recruit locally,” he said, adding they also intend to work with the local hospital.
CRA serves about 125,000 enrolled Department of Defense patients and veterans with clinics nationwide, Robbins said. They also operate overseas.
For too long Veterans Affairs failed to deliver to North Dakota veterans the health care they deserved, Pomeroy said.
“We hit a bump in the road — it often happens and now it’s fixed,” he said.
Ross said though she is extremely pleased with the announcement, area veterans could end up in this situation again at the end of the five-year contract.
“We have an obligation as a community to take care of our veterans, not just the ones we are creating everyday, but our WWI and WWII veterans,” she said.
Pomeroy said there are about 55,000 veterans across the state.
Health care service options
Dickinson veterans can call 1-800-410-9723, ext. 9-4590, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for health care services until the clinic opens.