BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) held a Town Hall Meeting in Mena on Friday, March 31, 2017, at the Ouachita Center on the campus of UA-Rich Mountain. Many veterans and their families were in attendance and gained valuable information and personal help while there.
Around a dozen representatives from CAVHS were on hand to explain various department responsibilities and answer questions about general and personal cases. Many veterans expressed frustration on timelines to receive benefits, get approval for procedures, or finding VA facilities, or partnering facilities close enough to have procedures.
Lisa Bruen, Director of Little Rock Regional VA Office, explained that the regional office processes 16,000 disability claims each year, and they are trying to implement policies that will speed up some of the processes. “Please be assured that we are working really hard to process those claims and get them out quickly. We know there is room for improvement.” Bruen also explained that they are currently working with Congress to change legislation that will move the applications through quicker.
Dr. Tina McClain, Chief of Staff for CAVHS, said they want to get all veterans enrolled in their services. She specifically mentioned that there are 22 veterans that take their own life every day. “Vet suicide markedly decreases with those who are enrolled in VA. The stats drop from 22 vet suicides per day to 8 when enrolled with VA.” McClain also said as far as their services, they want to provide the best they can. “We want to give the best health care experience possible. Our big push is going to be that your experience in care is equal to your quality of care.”
The staff also spoke of the new clinic being constructed in Mena next to the Post Office. They expect construction to be complete in July 2017 and are currently looking for qualified staff to fill the 9,500 sq. ft. space that will include 10 exam rooms and a women’s health and procedure room. Mark Wilson, Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) Coordinator, said they plan to maintain all the services offered at the current clinic, with a goal to expand all CBOCs to include physical therapy services.
The new CBOC in Mena will be a fully VA staffed clinic, not a community partner like the current clinic. Due to the change, they will need to hire all new staff. For those interested, visit USA Jobs online and search Arkansas for a list of positions available. With cooperative weather and a full staff, Richard Bowyer, Contract Liason for VA Medical Centers, said they hope to be up and running in late Summer to early Fall 2017.
Although the new center will not include dental services, CAVHS staffers explained at the Town Hall Meeting that they are “focusing on provider agreements to get local dentists to partner with CAVHS” to keep veterans from having to travel to North Little Rock for dental care.