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VA clinic opens aboard MCLB Albany

By Marti Gatlin | | August 7, 2014

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During the first day at its new location aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, more than 40 patients were seen Friday at the Veterans Administration community-based outpatient clinic.

The VA clinic, located at Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany, welcomed veterans from all branches of service. The outpatient facility is part of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Dublin, Georgia.

Originally located downtown in Albany, Georgia, the VA clinic and its mental health services will be open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Primary and specialty care services are offered in Building 7000 and mental health services in  Building 7200.

For information and appointments, veterans should call toll free, 800-595-5229, ext. 2711.

A letter with the new telephone number will be sent out to the Albany area veterans once the clinic’s lines are connected, according to Ophelia Thomas, nurse manager, VA clinic.

“Our mission is to make sure the veterans are taken care of, their needs are being met and we want to treat them with the utmost respect and make sure they get everything they need,” Thomas said.

“The veterans have done so much for this country, given us the right to do so many things and it’s definitely an honor to be given an opportunity to do this,” Thomas added.

Four primary care providers and four specialty providers will take care of veterans’ needs, she noted.

The four specialty providers — podiatry, audiology, optometry, physical therapy — are known as patient aligned care teams and consist of one provider, one registered nurse, one licensed practical nurse and one medical support assistant, Thomas said.

Dr. Frank Jordan Jr., public affairs supervisor, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Dublin, Georgia, reiterated the VA outpatient clinic’s primary role of caring for veterans.

He called its move to MCLB Albany, “outstanding not only because it’s been a couple-year process to get this done, of course (it’s) always gratifying to see a project this big, this complex come to completion.

“What we’ve found is it really appeals to our veterans to be going back to a military environment,” Jordan said. “Whether they were in for a year or 30 years, for most veterans that’s a part of their lives they cherish.

“To get back to the military environment where they recognize structure and the respect they get as veterans and former military people, they love it,” Jordan added.

According to Jordan, about 5,000 veterans in the Albany area receive care at the VA outpatient clinic — roughly 300-400 a month — and the clinic hopes to increase it to 8,000 veterans.

“Our No. 1 priority is care,” he said. “It happens in this collaboration (that) not only are we going to be able to provide better higher quality health care, we are going to be able to do it more efficiently.

“We are collaborating with other federal agencies so we get modern, beautiful spaces to work out of, we get support from the Navy and the Marine Corps and they get support from us,” Jordan said. “It benefits the active-duty military and the veterans.”

Dr. Matthew Geyer, director, mental health services, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, said once hiring is completed, there will be seven to nine mental health providers in addition to support staff at the VA’s mental health services aboard MCLB Albany.

Eight patients as well as walk-in patients were also seen Friday at the mental health services in Building 7200.

“We are going to be increasing staffing significantly in mental health,” Geyer said. “We will have the ability to offer psychiatry services, professional psychology services, social work services, specialized post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, specialized substance abuse treatment as well as having a strong presence for military sexual trauma treatment and suicide prevention case management.

“We are also augmenting the staffing here in Albany through the use of telemedicine technologies, where if a patient comes in and needs to be seen and all the providers locally are busy, but the provider up in Milledgeville, (Georgia,) has an opening we can get that patient seen by that provider in Milledgeville over a secure video link,” he continued. 

Geyer also explained there are about 48 Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supported Housing vouchers for the chronically homeless in the Albany area.

According to the VA’s website, www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Helping-Veterans-Find-and-Keep-a-Home.asp, HUD-VASH is a partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supported Housing. HUD supplies a number of Section 8 housing vouchers designated for homeless veterans and VASH supplies ongoing case management services to help veterans obtain and maintain affordable housing with the voucher.

“Our HUD-VASH case managers, who are social workers, will also be operating out of here, which will give them a place to meet with clients in a more structured, secure setting,” he said.

Geyer also echoed Thomas’ and Jordan’s sentiments about caring for veterans.

“Our patients all served in the military, so they are kind of returning home to get care and this base will offer many the opportunity to feel safe and secure in a way most facilities can’t offer.”

Steven Ogle II, an Army infantry veteran from Lumpkin, Georgia, was among the veterans at the VA clinic, Friday.

“I feel like I have more services available to me than any other health care system I was enrolled in,” Ogle said. “I feel it’s a better quality of care thus far.”

Retired veteran Walter Crawford from Thomaston, Georgia, served 20 years and 8 months in the Army. While waiting his turn at the VA clinic, Friday, he talked about how glad he was the services are now at MCLB Albany.

“I come to Albany a lot so I feel I can get my care here,” Crawford said. “Atlanta is closer, but I’d rather come here because of the traffic up there. I don’t like driving in that traffic (in Atlanta).”


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