By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — Veterans in town now have access to state-of-the-art primary care, thanks to a community-based outpatient clinic that opened one year ago.
Stratton VA’s Clifton Park Community Based Output Clinic is one of 11 CBOCs that have been established by the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center. There are other similar clinics in Schenectady and Glens Falls.
The Albany Stratton VA was the first VA in the country to open a community-based outpatient clinic. The first one opened in 1988 in Elizabethtown as a pilot program of delivering accessible care in the communities in which veterans lived.
Stratton VA has had a presence in Saratoga County for at least 10 years. Before the current clinic, which is located on Route 146, the clinic was located in Halfmoon.
But the contract for the Halfmoon building expired.
Peter Potter, director of public affairs at Stratton VA, said that the building that housed the clinic in Halfmoon needed repair work, which led to the decision to seek out a new space that would allow the clinic to expand.
“As long as they can meet our needs, and the veterans’ needs,” he said.
Each clinic draws from a 30-minute radius that dictates where the majority of the clinic’s patients should be coming from. Some of the clinics’ circles overlap, Potter said, which ensures that veterans never have to travel too far for their appointments.
“Basically, anybody can go anywhere they want in the VA system,” he said.”This is providing for veterans who live in the community so they have easy access.”
The clinics are mainly responsible for providing veterans with primary care. Veterans can receive routine checkups, along with mental health care, blood work, smoking cessation support and specialty services including dermatology. The clinics also have a focus on providing women’s health care for female veterans.
The clinics are unique, Potter said, because they are easily accessible to veterans with no waiting lists to see doctors. About 1,800 veterans receive their care from the Clifton Park CBOC, and with the resources housed at the facility, that number could easily be doubled, he said.
The Clifton Park CBOC is staffed by doctors, mental health specialists and some volunteers.There are social workers on staff, an on-site pharmacist, along with physicians who specialize in tele-medicine, which is a practice that allows patients to meet with doctors via a computer screen instead of face-to-face.
Through tele-medicine, the VA clinics can connect patients with doctors all over the country who work in the VA system.The clinic will also offer patients the option of meeting with doctors by using a smart-phone.
However, veterans have to go elsewhere for surgical procedures.
Darlene DeLancey, interim director of the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, paid a visit to the facility in Clifton Park on Friday afternoon as the doctors and patients celebrated the one-year anniversary.
DeLancey said the fact that she has had many members of her family serve in various branches of the military means that veterans are never far from her mind.
“When I see a veteran, I appreciate what they do every day,” she said, addressing the veterans who had gathered for the anniversary celebration. “I wouldn’t be doing what I do everyday if it were not for you.”
Even though it’s been a year since the clinic opened, DeLancey said that the ribbon-cutting was important and necessary to show veterans in the area that they have an option they can utilize that’s just down the road.
She also lauded the staff at the Clifton Park CBOC for being vigilant in providing personalized services to each patient.
“You’re giving good quality, safe care to the veteran population that you serve,” she said.