By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has a full day in Port Angeles on Wednesday.
In addition to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new expanded veterans clinic, the Democrat from Whidbey Island will meet with Peninsula College President Luke Robins and staff members, as well as with an engineer from Angeles Composites Technologies Inc., or ACTI, said Sean Coit, spokesman for Murray.
The private meeting will include Mary O'Neil-Garrett, the college's vice president of instruction; Darren Greeno, director of the college's workforce education program; Dale Luther, lead engineer with ACTI, which is based in Port Angeles; and ACTI employee Jim Weishorn, who also is enrolled in the college's composites program.
She also is expected to meet with Olympic Medical Center CEO Eric Lewis, Coit said.
The Port Angeles School District expects her at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center in the afternoon, a district spokeswoman said.
The new North Olympic Peninsula Clinic at 1114 Georgiana St. replaces the former Veteran Affairs clinic one block away at 1005 Georgiana St.
It will triple the primary care and mental health service offerings to Peninsula veterans, according to the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's office.
“It's adding significantly to current offerings” with an additional doctor, a full-time mental health provider and a host of new services, said Chad Hutson, public affairs officer with the health care system.
Murray, D-Whidbey Island, will cut the ribbon at the clinic Wednesday to formally open it with a ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
“We'll have a full day on Tuesday, an event with Sen. Murray on Wednesday, and then it's back to work,” Hutson said.
Murray has paved the way to ensure funding was available to expand the clinic and its medical and mental health treatment services, Hutson said.
The former site of the clinic, which opened in August 2007, closed Friday for the move.
It offered basic primary care services, limited mental health services and limited lab services, Hutson said.
Thirteen current staff members are moving to the new site. They will be joined by seven additional staff, including another physician — doubling the number of doctors on staff.
At the new clinic will be 20 staff members, including two doctors, two nurse practitioners, three nurses, three health technicians and a mental health provider, Hutson said.
“Part of the reason we were unable to do this before was because of space issues,” he said.
The new site is more than five times the size of the former site, so the clinic's space grows from 1,400 square feet to more than 7,800.
The clinic serves about 1,600 veterans now and has the potential to grow to 2,500 from Clallam and Jefferson counties, Hutson said.
An estimated 14,000 veterans live on the Peninsula.
The former clinic was rented from Olympic Medical Center for $1 annually.
The landlord of the new site is located in Oregon and will charge the VA about $157,000 annually, Hutson said.
“We feel it's worth it, considering the expanded services we will be offering the veterans,” Hutson said.
“In our eyes, that [lease] cost is more than justified if we can offer improved services to veterans now.”
A major component of the expanded services is the mental health provider, Hutson said.
“Veterans have told us they are in great need of mental health services,” he said, adding that the expansion will mean veterans don't have to leave the area for treatment as often as they do now.
The expanded clinical offerings include:
■ Primary care services, which already are offered but will be expanded by having a second doctor on site.
■ Home-based primary care services.
■ Limited physical therapy services.
■ Telemedicine, which is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications.
■ Home telehealth services, which use telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care.
■ Mental health services.
■ Phlebotomy, a new service for the clinic.
■ Dietitian services, also new for this clinic.
■ Social work, a “much more robust” offering, Hutson said.
■ Tele-retinal imaging, a new service.
■ Pharmacist, a new service.
“We are excited at the VA to offer expanded services for our veterans on the Peninsula and not make them travel to Seattle or Tacoma for some of their medical needs,” said Dr. Connie Morantes, director of general medicine at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
The clinic's hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
For more information and to make appointments, phone 360-565-7420.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.