After years of work, Sen. Jon Tester on Tuesday said the Department of Veterans Affairs will construct a new outpatient clinic in Missoula, one several times larger than the current facility.
The new clinic will serve nearly 50,000 veterans in western Montana and enable the VA to expand an array of services, including primary care, mental health and specialty care.
“For too long, veterans in Western Montana had to make do with an undersized clinic and overworked staff—but no more,” Tester said in a statement. “This facility will provide the high quality health care folks who served this country in uniform earned and deserve.”
In February, Tester had hinted that a decision for a new clinic could be near. While details were scarce, he said the VA had narrowed the clinic’s future location down to three sites.
The outpatient clinic will be constructed on vacant land located on West Broadway and its junction with Mary Jane Boulevard. The site was formerly eyed by Costco, though that deal fell through after the city pressed the company to fund additional infrastructure.
Tester, the ranking member of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, said the new facility will offer roughly 52,500 square feel with energy efficient additions.
“This new clinic is welcome news for Missoula’s veterans—who will now have access to cutting-edge care in a state-of-the-art new facility that’ll fit a diverse set of needs,” Tester said.
Tester fought for the new facility as part of his bipartisan VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017, which sought to expand the capacity of the VA.
The bill authorized the new Missoula CBOC lease, which will have more than 150 percent more space than the current clinic. That will enable the VA to serve more patients, provide more privacy to veterans seeking care, and better ensure doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have the space they need to effectively do their jobs.
The effort to secure a larger Missoula clinic dates back to at least 2014 when Tester began pushing the VA to expand the facility. Back then, a VA consulting team toured the clinic and recommended a modest expansion of roughly 5,000 square feet.
Nearly a year later, the General Services Administration began studying the possibility of converting the vacant Federal Building in downtown Missoula to a new outpatient clinic. That effort was later deemed cost prohibitive, leaving the clinic’s future in limbo.