V.A. explores part-time clinic location in Selma

Published 7:57 pm Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Veterans Administration in Tuscaloosa wants to open a part-time clinic in Selma.

Currently, officials with the V.A. are searching for a location for the clinic, said Damon Stevenson, a spokesman. The V.A. had a goal of opening the clinic for veterans in its fiscal 2009 plan. The federal government fiscal year began Tuesday.

“Right now, we’re in the infant stages,” Stevenson said.

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About 3,160 veterans live in Dallas County, said Bob Horton, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. Statewide, the 2000 U.S. Census shows a total of 416,947 veterans, he added.

The V.A. has advertised for potential space in The Selma Times-Journal. Those bids are due Oct. 10. Then, officials from the V.A. will come to Selma to look at the properties that might be suitable for the clinic, Stevenson said.

In the beginning, the clinic will operate three days a week. It will offer primary care and mental health services. V.A. staff from Tuscaloosa will operate the clinic, Stevenson said.

“We hope in the future to open a full-fledged community-out reach five days a week,” he said.

Selma falls under the Montgomery V.A. center, which already operates two satellite clinics, one in Dothan and the other in Columbus, Ga. The Montgomery center has plans to open another at Fort Rucker and in Opelika, Stevenson said.

Officials at Tuscaloosa realized the number of veterans in Dallas and Marengo counties and talked to Montgomery about a clinic in Selma, Stevenson said.

About six months ago, the V.A, center in Tuscaloosa held a health fair for veterans in Selma. “It was to let folks know who we are,” Stevenson said.

James G. Smith, a local veteran, said he isn’t sure how much a clinic in Selma would be used by veterans, except by those who are unable to travel.

“Most vets now go to Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham or Tuskegee for their appointments,” Smith said. “One very important thing would be the personnel staffing it, and if more than a triage station is intended.”

Smith said he doesn’t have enough information about the V.A.’s plans for the clinic to talk about it much.

“Most of the veterans I know have doctors at these other facilities they see on a regular basis,” Smith added. “You have to be seen by a V.A. doctor in order to keep your prescriptions up to date. It has presented a problem for some unable to travel in the past.”