VA set to build new care clinic in Vancouver

Facility, scheduled to open in summer 2016, will be twice as big as current one

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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A new primary care clinic is slated for Vancouver’s Veterans Affairs campus.

The new 20,000-square-foot facility will be twice as big as the current primary care clinic on the campus.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 just southeast of the county’s Center for Community Health. The site now serves as a campus transit stop, just south of the entrance off Fourth Plain Boulevard.

The clinic is expected to open in the summer of 2016, regional VA spokesman Dan Herrigstad said. A new use will be found for the current clinic space, but that hasn’t been determined.

According to preliminary documents, the project will cost from $5 million to $10 million.

The building will be a one-story steel structure with brick veneer; it will include the infrastructure for a future second story.

Mental health services for veterans will be integrated into the clinic.

The VA system has come under national pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups recently after shortfalls in care, but planning for this clinic predates that, Herrigstad said.

“A lot of planning and effort has been going on for some time to improve access,” Herrigstad said. The new clinic is part of a regional effort by the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which includes Vancouver. A new outpatient clinic opened last month in Salem, Ore. Work on a new outpatient clinic in east Portland will start next year.

“We’re trying to match the capacity to the demand,” Herrigstad said. That demand is growing, as the Portland region — with nearly 900,000 appointments a year — shows the highest growth rate in the VA system.

“The average growth rate in the VA is 1.7 percent a year,” he said. “We’re at almost 6 percent within our 12 sites across Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

The medical center will work with C-Tran to relocate the bus drop-off area to Army Avenue, which is the central north-south road through the Vancouver campus.

The clinic is one of three construction projects on tap for the Vancouver VA campus. Construction is expected to start this year on the Freedoms Path facility, a 69-unit apartment building at the north entrance to house homeless veterans. It is expected to open in 2015 or 2016.

The new Fisher House is also scheduled to start construction in the fall, at the south end of the campus. The Fisher House will provide free housing for up to 16 families of veterans receiving medical care in Portland and Vancouver.