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story.lead_photo.caption A Cole County Industries concrete truck rolls out of the driveway as a crew from Clift & Crawford Concrete Construction set forms in preparation for concrete curbing. The crew is, from left, Braxton Williamson, Brandon Cantrell, Bill Stark and Scott Crosser. Photo by Julie Smith / Fulton Sun.

Jefferson City's new Community-Based Outpatient Clinic is taking shape — and is expected to open for business around mid-January.

The new facility at 3430 W. Edgewood Drive in Jefferson City will increase the size of the clinic from 7,625 square feet to 10,476 square feet, according to Jeffrey Hoelscher, a public affairs officer with the VA.

"The number of primary care rooms will increase from seven to 10," Hoelscher said.

But, in addition to the primary care rooms — which include a triage room and a women's health room — the new clinic also will have spaces for four telehealth rooms, four optometry rooms, two behavioral health rooms, two podiatry rooms and an audiology suite.

It's not certain, even now, that's how many of each room the clinic ends up with, said Derrick Hensley, operations manager for primary care at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital. The new clinic is designed with flexibility in mind.

"While the drawings show four telehealth rooms, if when we get in there we find out the clinic needs more podiatry services and only two telehealth rooms, we'll be able to easily adjust these services to take care of that need," Hensley said.

Mainly, the new clinic will allow for future growth and allow to provide services that are coming more into demand, he said.

"I spend a lot of time in the current Jeff City location — and it has a lot of older veterans. When they come there, they're consulted here in Columbia for their eye care," he said. "We're going to be able to take care of that there for them now."

Eye care, podiatry and women's health are high on the list of services needed by the aging and changing veteran population that aren't currently offered in the Jefferson City clinic, which was built in 2008.

The new clinic will eliminate the need for veterans to travel to Columbia to receive those services or to wait until a doctor is available.

The biggest issue may be optometry, Hensley said. The new clinic will have four dedicated "eye lanes," which will let doctors treat four patients at a time — getting their eye examinations and consultations.

Audiology is another concern the new clinic will address with expanded audiology services.

It will house a dedicated space for audiologists, so they will have offices and not be required to work out of the audiology rooms.

The clinic will include additional audiology storage, so it can keep more hearing aids and audiology equipment on site and serve veterans faster.

About 40,000 veterans receive services through the Truman VA each year, Hoelscher said. During the fiscal year that ended in 2018, 4,718 veterans received services at the current clinic. They accounted for 15,941 patient appointments.

The new clinic will provide some behavioral health services, Hensley said.

It will retain an on-staff psychologist who is to be supported by psychiatrists.

"It's not new. It's an expansion on what we currently have," he said.

The clinic will increase from the current single telemedicine room to four. That will allow patients to receive services from experts in Columbia without having to drive up there, Hensley said.

"The idea is to connect them with a specialist without them having to leave the community," he added.

One of the unique health models the VA offers is its Patient-Aligned Care Team (PACT) approach to health care. The PACT model is made up of a team — with the patient's primary care provider as the head of the team. The primary care provider then has a registered nurse, who is a care coordinator. They then have a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

When a patient comes in, the LPN sits them down and takes their vital signs — things like weight, height and blood pressure.

Other team members are supported by a medical support assistant. Somebody might see them as a front-line registration staff member.

When patients call in, their care is all directed by that team. Each team can receive support from others. "It really focuses the care on you, the veteran," Hensley said. "Your doctor becomes intimately familiar with you. It forms a much closer relationship than just seeing whatever doctor is available when you come in."

Construction on the clinic is scheduled for completion in December. Staff are expected to move in during the first couple of weeks of January.

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