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VA Clinic in South-Central Missouri Opens Doors at New Facility; Mental Health, Women's Issues

Jennie Dawson is a Registered Nurse at the VA Outpatient Clinic in West Plains, Missouri. (Photo credit: Jennifer Davidson,
Jennie Dawson is a Registered Nurse at the VA Outpatient Clinic in West Plains, Missouri. (Photo credit: Jennifer Davidson,

The VA Outpatient Clinic in West Plains, Missouri, recently opened its doors at a new, brick facility on the main thoroughfare in town.As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, the clinic sees veterans from a wide radius of a very rural landscape--and the new building is designed with the needs of women veterans and those with PTSD in mind.

The waiting room in the new VA clinic is seeing a steady stream of patients walk through the door on this particular afternoon. They take a number, and some help themselves to the free coffee before chatting with one another about why they’re here. One is here to have blood drawn—as he takes his seat, he says he’s “waiting for the vampires.” Another is here because of diabetes complications.

The waiting room is spacious and shiny—a far cry from the old clinic, which was in a small strip mall.

Jerry Johnson, a former Marine who served in the Vietnam Era, drove here from Alton, about 45 minutes away. He comes here for his physicals and to get prescriptions, and drives two hours to Poplar Bluff for more major procedures.This is his first time visiting the new building. He says he’s pleased with the service he’s received in the past, but he’s skeptical about whether this new facility was needed.

“I wonder why they’re spending so damn much money when we’re supposed to be out of money, to put in a brand new facility when the other one seemed to be working okay,” he said.

Johnson said he tried to call this clinic for three days but couldn’t get through. An official tells me they’re working out some quirks with the new phone lines, and I can see a telephone line crew outside.

For the staff members treating these veterans, the new facility is a relief.

Jennie Dawson is an RN here. She says one service that will be affected is the group therapy offered by the clinic.

“They have groups here for PTSD recovery. They have groups for anger management.So that’s one thing we’re really fortunate to have this new building for, because we didn’t really have the space for this sort of thing at the old building. Although we managed, it was quite cramped,” she said.

Dawson says one thing the VA has tried to step up to the plate on is women’s health.

“For instance, this room we’re in right now is a women’s health clinic room," she said.

That's another thing the old clinic didn't have.

There is a critical shortage of mental health care professionals in rural areas like this one, she says—so veterans with mental and behavioral health needs are limited to getting their treatment through web-based sessions with professionals who are far away.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.