BANGOR, Maine — Construction has been completed at the new 30,000-square-foot veterans health clinic on the campus of the Maine Veterans’ Home and adjacent to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor.
On Tuesday, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs toured the sparkling new facility and took formal possession of the keys. The clinic now will be furnished and equipped and is expected to be open for patient care in March.
In addition to offering primary care and mental health services now provided at the VA’s cramped Community-Based Outpatient Center on Hancock Street in Bangor, the new health center will provide specialty services including dental care, optometry, speech and hearing services, physical therapy, and X-ray and other imaging diagnostics.
These specialty services will be available to the northern half of Maine’s military veterans, who now must travel to the Togus VA Medical Center near Augusta or beyond for the same level of care.
“The VA’s goal is to put health care services where our veterans are,” said Ryan Lilly, associate director of VA services in Maine.
In addition to serving the approximately 6,000 veterans who now seek medical and mental health care at the Hancock Street clinic, the new facility will accept referrals from VA clinics in the northern part of Maine, home to a total of about 10,000 veterans now enrolled in the VA health care system.
Throughout Maine, about 39,000 veterans are enrolled in the VA health care system. But Lilly said a total of about 130,000 veterans live in Maine, many of whom are eligible for VA medical care. Maine, he said, has among the highest percentage of military veterans of any state in the nation — nearly 10 percent of the total population.
An expanded-services clinic nearly identical to the new one in Bangor is expected to open in Lewiston before the end of this year. In addition, veterans can seek primary care and mental health services at full-time clinics in Bingham, Calais, Caribou, Lincoln, Rumford and Saco as well as at the Togus VA Medical Center itself. A VA mental health clinic in Portland soon will relocate and add primary medical care services. Part-time VA clinics are located in Fort Kent and Houlton.
Once it is fully staffed, the new clinic in Bangor will employ about 65 people, including doctors and other providers, nurses, technicians, counselors, case managers and administrative workers.
The new clinic cost about $10 million to build and was designed and engineered by SummitSmith Healthcare Facilities of Wisconsin, which will retain ownership of the facility. The land on which the clinic is built is owned by the nonprofit Maine Veterans’ Homes. The VA has a 20-year lease agreement for the clinic at $900,000 a year.
Veterans with questions about their eligibility for VA medical care may call the Health Benefits Advisor office at the Togus VA Medical Center at 623-8411, ext. 5688, or toll-free at 877-421-8263, ext. 5688.