A new, expanded clinic opening in June in Brainerd is designed to provide more services and greater access to military veterans.
And officials hope the new clinic will attract more veterans to seek help when they need it.
The Veterans Administration is moving its Brainerd Community Outpatient Clinic into the former World on Wheels Skate Center just off Jackson Street by the Brainerd Area Civic Center. The new clinic will begin seeing veterans June 8.
"I'm hoping many of the veterans receiving primary care in Minneapolis will swing by here and give it a look and save some long grueling trips in the van," said Bob Nelson, Crow Wing County veterans service officer. "Many of the people have no idea of the services available to them."
Bill Wroolie (left), national treasurer of the Purple Heart Association, and Bob Nelson, Crow Wing County veterans service officer, took part in a walk-through tour Monday of the new veterans clinic in Brainerd.
Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls
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Newly carpeted floors, exam rooms, nurses station and consultation rooms have replaced the vast roller rink surface. There are 12 exam rooms, a procedure room, three classrooms for group therapy and nutrition classes.
The veterans clinic has been in the Brainerd area for nearly 10 years, opening in 1999 in the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center on Highway 18. But officials hope the move will give the clinic greater visibility and thus allow it to reach more eligible veterans.
The move means the clinic will expand services to include radiology and offer more laboratory, home-based primary care and mental health services. The clinic employs about 30.
The clinic offers primary care to eligible veterans, specialty referrals to St. Cloud and the Minneapolis VA medical centers, pharmacy consultation, podiatry, nutrition services for areas such as diabetes and weight loss, and retinal scanning. Case management services assist veterans with chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension and pulmonary disease. The clinic currently provides health care to 4,493 veterans. There are about 6,200 military veterans in Crow Wing County.
Solar panels on the new veterans clinic in Brainerd have transformed the building, which formerly housed the World on Wheels Skate Center just off Jackson Street near the Brainerd Area Civic Center. The solar energy is being used to heat water and supplement heat for the building. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Joan Vincent, Department of Veterans Affairs supervisor for veteran and community service, said the Brainerd clinic seeks to provide services to veterans close to their home.
"I think everybody is excited about the expanded services," said Bill Wroolie, national treasurer of the Purple Heart Association. "I think it'll be a relief for a lot of people who normally drive to Minneapolis or St. Cloud."
There are income eligibility guidelines, but those levels have increased and may now cover more individuals. The clinic works with a patient's community health care provider to co-manage the veteran's care. Veterans service officers in area counties will be able to help answer eligibility questions. Veterans who have lost jobs in the current economy may be eligible for health services.
A dedication ceremony is planned at 10:30 a.m. June 15 at the new Brainerd Community Based Outpatient Clinic, 722 N.W. Seventh St., in the former skate center.
Tours of the clinic will be offered along with light refreshments.
Basic health screening and enrollment for eligible veterans is planned at the Brainerd clinic from June 15-19.
As part of the home-based care, the clinic has two registered nurses and a licensed practical nurse for home visits and adult day service. The clinic currently has 50 clients in its home-based primary care. The clinic has social work staff, a dietitian and a psychologist for home visits.
A podiatrist is at the clinic one day per week. The clinic has a full-time psychiatrist. Three post-traumatic stress disorder groups meet at the clinic with a men's group on Monday mornings and Thursday nights and a woman's group on Monday afternoons.
Gina Oleen, VA administrative officer, said some World War II veterans don't use services they are eligible for because they want to make sure other veterans have care.
"We need them to come in," Oleen said. "This is why we are here. We want to serve as many people as we can."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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