Health care for veterans to expand at new clinicWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Area veterans will gain expanded local access to health care services on Sept. 19 when Toledo’s VA clinic opens in its new building.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic will move to a 66,000-square-foot facility at 1200 S. Detroit Ave. The space is more than twice the size of the current clinic on Glendale Avenue.
The new building is a “state-of-the-art healing facility” that will expand on services currently offered in Toledo as well as introduce new services, including occupational therapy and mental health exams for compensation and pension, said Robert McDivitt, director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, which oversees the Toledo clinic.
“There are more services available in the current clinic than there were a year ago or two years ago and there will be many more services available to veterans in this new clinic,” McDivitt said during a tour of the new facility Aug. 29. “Our job is to honor America’s veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being … and we feel very privileged to do that. We’ve been here in Toledo since 1978 and this will be a new and exciting chapter in the history of Toledo veterans.”
The Glendale Avenue clinic will be closed for three days, Sept. 14, 17 and 18, while the move occurs, although phone lines will be open and bus service to Ann Arbor will continue. Starting Sept. 19, buses will leave from the new building.
An official ribbon-cutting is planned for noon Nov. 9, which is Veterans Day weekend.
About 12,000 area veterans utilize the Toledo clinic, generating about 120,000 visits per year, said Dr. Leo Greenstone, associate chief of staff of ambulatory care. Patients will still need to go to Ann Arbor for certain services, including infusion treatments for cancer.
Virtual care has helped boost services available, linking patients in Toledo with doctors in Ann Arbor via video conferencing or secure messaging saving a few trips north, Greenstone said.
“We’ve really expanded virtual care over the past couple years and now we have even more capacity to expand those services in this building,” he said.
Veterans can also access My HealtheVet, a Web-based portal used to access personal medical records and lab results, reorder medications and utilize the secure messaging system.
“We estimate 40 percent of our veterans this year will communicate with their health care provider using secure messaging,” McDivitt said.
Click 2 Benefits is another online tool, allowing veterans to talk with benefits specialists in Cleveland. The service started last year and has saved veterans at least 100 trips to Cleveland, McDivitt said.
The current clinic has 110 employees; the new clinic will employ about 120. Among the added staff members will be several dedicated to mental health services.
“That’s an area where we’ve expanded a lot in Toledo over the last several years,” McDivitt said.
The new building features 25 mental health provider offices and four large group rooms. The Toledo clinic will be one of the first in the country to offer tele-sessions for post traumatic stress disorder sessions, McDivitt said.
The building was designed with input from local veterans to be patient-friendly, said Building Project Manager Amy Murbach. When veterans arrive, they will be met by a greeter. Most frequently visited areas, such as the pharmacy and Click 2 Benefits, are located near the front along with a coffee shop.
One new feature will be a centralized check-in, where veterans can check into multiple appointments at once. The check-in and check-out desks are close together so staff can easily communicate, Murbach said.
A spacious central atrium, called the Resource and Activities Center, was designed more as a community space than a waiting room. It will offer lounge seating, tables, cable televisions, computer terminals, wireless Internet access and a veterans resource center. Decor includes flags from each branch of service, patriotic-themed murals and inspirational quotes.
The occupational therapy room features a kitchen and bathroom to help injured veterans learn to maneuver at home. The physical therapy room includes private treatment alcoves and exercise equipment, including an underwater treadmill, said Clinical Director Dr. Thomas Gross.
“Not a lot of places have access to water aquatherapy,” Gross said. “This is unique. This is very, very special. This is state of the art.”
Audiology will expand from one booth for hearing tests to a suite with two booths and two hearing aid fitting rooms. The number of phlebotomy, or blood-drawing, stations will increase from two to four. The dental unit added two chairs to make six.
A community room with attached kitchen and seating for up to 100 people will be available to community groups, both during the day and after hours.
The four wings are differentiated by color and patients will always be treated by the same Patient-Aligned Care (PAC) team of care providers.
The building was designed with flexibility and future growth in mind.
“Everything here is modular, so as our needs change we can easily move everything around,” Murbach said. “Not only is that convenient for us, but it also saves taxpayer dollars.”
‘Faces of Heroes’
Local photos are being sought for an art project called “Faces of Heroes,” planned for a wall on the second floor. The 40-foot-long installation will feature 1,500 glass tiles each displaying a photo of a local veteran.
Photos can be taken to the clinic at 3333 Glendale Ave. The veteran or active duty servicemember should be wearing a military uniform. For more information, visit toledofacesofheroes.org.
“It’s going to be a wonderful project,” McDivitt said. “It reinforces the theme of honoring America’s veterans that we want every veteran that comes through the doors here to feel.”
The Toledo clinic is the second largest, in terms of patients treated and number of employees, in its four-state region, which includes nearly 30 clinics in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, McDivitt said. Grand Rapids has the largest.
Ground was broken for the new building in March 2011. The building is being leased from Cleveland-based Carnegie Management and Development Corporation. The Glendale Avenue building was leased from the University of Toledo, which plans to redevelop the space for clinical use with UTMC.
For more information, visit www.annarbor.va.gov.