Suffolk County Legislators took a walk-through of a new Veterans Affairs Clinic at the County Center in Riverside on Thursday morning, which is set to open its doors and provide East End veterans more, easier - and as a result, better - health care access early next month.
"It's 100 percent better than the old one was," said the Commander of VFW Post 2476 in Riverhead, , who took a walk through the facilities last month. Edler was wounded by shrapnel during the Vietnam War and currently visits the primary care facilities at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton about once every three months.
"It will be a lot better for the doctors and offer a lot more space for the vets," Edler said. "Westhampton is about one room for a doctor and one for a nurse. That's it."
The new 4,300 square-foot facility, located on the second floor of the County Center, is set to open its mental health care on May 2 and primary care operations two days later.
According to JoAnne Anderson, East End health coordinator with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, close to 35,000 veterans live on the East End of Long Island, and close to 165,000 in all of Suffolk County.
The new clinic will start off with "part-time hours," though officials had not yet determined what exactly they will be or when longer hours would be extended. It will replace the current primary care facility at Gabreski and the once-a-week mental health service clinic offered at the Riverhead American Legion. The facility contains three consulting rooms, five exam rooms, a spacious waiting room, and a group therapy room which will offer video conferencing on a 52-inch flat-screen television.
"The American Legion hall contains very little privacy," said Legislator Ed Romaine, R-Center Moriches, whose father was a World War II veteran and visited the Gabreski facility until he passed away last year. "And access to Gabreski is often difficult - parking is limited, and the security questions can sometimes be overwhelming."
According to Romaine's office, vets will not have to pass through the general public security checkpoint at the County Center, and parking spots at the busy location will be dedicated only to vets who are visiting the facilities.
Anderson, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said that Disabled American Veterans will offer two vans to transport patients to the new clinic - one for each fork.
As an example, she added that because of the facility's electronic medical recordkeeping system, a veteran visiting the East End for the summer from Florida could visit with ease as the individual's medical history would be more readily available.