After years of planning and legislative wrangling, dignitaries gathered on Friday to mark the official inauguration of Missoula’s new veterans’ clinic. This $8 million investment would significantly improve healthcare for the region’s large military community.
Compared to the previous site across the city, the new facility will be 300 percent larger. It will continue to retain the name of Missoula veteran David J. Thatcher, a member of the famed Doolittle Raid over Japan during World War II and is buried nearby.
“People who join up are sent to regions that are very different from Missoula,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. “Sometimes such experiences result in changes that we can see, and other times they result in changes that we cannot see.” Once they return home, it is our responsibility as Americans to do all we can to address the problems they have encountered.”
Tester, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman, played a critical role in establishing the new outpatient center in Washington, DC.
When he invited former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to Missoula to address the need for extra capacity at the existing facility, the outcome was the facility’s expansion, which was completed in 2015. The following year, former VA Secretary Robert McDonald visited Missoula, where the city’s plans for a new clinic were developed.
Testing said that “this is one of the fastest expanding regions for service that we have in the state of Montana.” “We need a structure that met those requirements. “That’s when everything started moving.”
On Friday, Sen. Jon Tester expressed gratitude to veterans and VA staff during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Missoula’s new $8.8 million outpatient facilities.
To move things along, Tester and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, teamed with other senators to approve legislation permitting the establishment of additional Veterans Administration clinics around the nation. It was one of these facilities, but the clinic signifies much more than a physical structure.
It was the individuals who work here, Tester said, who “really bring this place to life.” He was speaking to VA personnel who were in attendance. “I’m well aware that you’re not in it for the money. You’re doing it because you’re passionate about assisting veterans.”
Those staff members will come together in what Dr. Judy Hayman, the executive director of VA Montana, refers to as a patient-centered care team when the clinic opens its doors next month. In addition to the leading practitioner, a nurse and a medical support assistant are also present.
The clinic will launch with five of these teams, with a sixth team being added in the future.
According to Hayman, “This new, state-of-the-art clinic will provide our Montana veterans with the care they truly deserve and will provide the Montana VA with what we want – more opportunities to fulfill our solemn commitment and promise to care for those injured in our nation’s defense, as well as the families of those who lost their lives while serving their country.”
The clinic’s launch coincides with the Veterans Administration’s 100th-anniversary celebration, even though the organization has only been in Missoula for 30 years. The first Missoula clinic, which was less than 800 square feet in size, opened its doors in 1997.
A total of 60,000 square feet has been dedicated to the new clinic, which is much better than its replacement. Radiology, retinology, lab work, endocrinology, prosthetics, sleep assistance, and care for homeless veterans are among the new services available in Missoula due to the increased space and expansion of the VA healthcare system.
Peer support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and healthy living may meet at the clinic’s dedicated meeting room. The new clinic will be served by specialists who will travel from Ft. Harrison in Helena on an as-needed basis.
In addition, Hayman stated, “we are aiming to extend our non-invasive cardiology services, and we also have potential to improve the overall quality of treatment.” There are four women’s health exam rooms at this clinic, and all primary care physicians have undergone special training to be classified as women’s health practitioners,” says the doctor.
Tester also addressed the subject of women’s health, stating that the veteran population has changed significantly over the last several years. Women are also serving in military capacities that were formerly exclusively for males, and the veteran female population is now the fastest-growing segment of the armed forces.
“That’s exactly what’s going on, and it’s a encouraging indicator,” Tester added. “When they return home, everyone deserves to be treated with such high-quality care.”