Veterans' need for outpatient services in rural Missouri continues to grow, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping in to help.
About 60 people gathered Friday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony for an expanded Community-Based Outpatient Clinic at 3430 W. Edgewood Drive in Jefferson City. When completed, likely in December, the clinic will replace the existing facility up the road at 2707 W. Edgewood Drive.
The new facility will increase the size of the clinic from approximately 7,600 square feet to approximately 10,500 square feet. The new facility will have 12 exam rooms, doubling the current facility's six.
It will provide primary care, behavioral health, audiology, podiatry, telemedicine, laboratory services and optometry, said Richard Burns, who specializes in internal medicine.
"We're excited to have a new facility," Burns said. "We're really tight in the current one."
David Isaacks, director of the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital, said since its opening in 2008, the number of patients treated at the clinic has grown. Doctors at the clinic treated about 4,500 veterans over the past year, Isaacks said Friday.
"Outpatient clinics are very important to our health system," Isaacks said. "They help us reach out to rural areas."
He said tele-health improves care further, allowing patients to receive specialty care without traveling to the hospital's main facility.
The expansion has been in planning stages for more than a year, VA spokesman Jeffrey Hoelscher said. It is expected to see a substantial increase in care, particularly for podiatry and optometry.
About 40,000 patients receive treatment at Truman VA hospitals and clinics annually, he said. The institution reaches 43 counties in Missouri and one in Illinois.
Most who use the clinic on Edgewood Drive are from Jefferson City, Fort Leonard Wood, Kirksville, Mexico, Marshfield, Lake of the Ozarks, Sedalia and St. James.
Nicholas Havens, chief of primary care at the veterans hospital, said growth at the clinic has been tremendous.
The "old" clinic was created in 2008. However, it has quickly been outgrown, Havens said.
"We've been adding on positions the entire time," Havens said. "For us, we think that's a good sign. This is health care that these guys are entitled to."