In a nationwide effort to localize primary care for qualified Veterans, Spirit Lake is slated to be the site of a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), set to open in the spring of 2007.
"The clinic is being built to enhance the service for veterans in the surrounding area," said Ernest Cupp, Director of Dickinson County Commission on Veteran Affairs.
Cupp said the idea has been in the works for three or four years, but has only recently been approved for construction.
"They try to have a clinic closer than 90 miles to any veteran," he said. "Eventually they hope to have clinics within easy access to veterans. We're happy to be getting ours."
The city of Spirit Lake was selected due to its location and number of veterans in the area in need of or receiving care at Sioux Falls, among other factors.
"The VA did a comprehensive study of underserved areas in terms of vet healthcare," said Pam Harris, Acting Facility Planner of Sioux Falls VA Medical Center.
Patients will still need to travel to Sioux Falls for specialty services after the clinic is completed, but routine medical care will be provided for those who qualify.
"The main benefit is that they will have care provided in their immediate community," Harris said. "They won't have to travel a long distance to receive their care."
According to Cupp, Dickinson County alone has approximately 1,800 veterans with an undetermined number seeking medical care at veteran's clinics. Out of the estimated 10,000 veterans in the eight counties to be serviced by the clinic, the new facility is expected to have the capacity to aid 1,500 veterans in its startup year.
Area veterans not currently receiving health care from the VA but who are interested in receiving care from the new clinic are encouraged to complete the 10-10EZ form to determine eligibility. If qualified, they may then contact the Spirit Lake CBOC for sign up information.
Space and equipment needs are expected to be estimated within a minimum of 60-90 days with the solicitation of bids to take place shortly thereafter.
With a fast-approaching projected opening date of spring 2007, many are skeptical the clinic will be ready in time.
"It's a very aggressive schedule," Harris said, "and a lot of people here will be working hard to make sure (it opens on time)."
Local veterans appear to be looking forward to the new facility.
"It's going to be very advantageous for the veterans here," said Denny Perry, Commander of American Legion Timpe Post #23 in Spirit Lake. "As a commander, I know a number of veterans that drive to the Sioux Falls center for treatment. The convenience will be amazing."