Mount Vernon Rallies to Keep Veterans Clinic
A meeting between Mount Vernon city officials and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is tentatively set for November 23rd to discuss the future of the Gene Taylor Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.
It’s the hope of the city that the veteran’s clinic remains where it has been for over two decades, rather than services be moved to Springfield.
Max Springer, Mount Vernon city administrator, says that the VA had planned to move the clinic to Springfield in 2010, but that those plans are now up for debate.
“We’re working with the VA. The clinic will remain open until they get either a new one built in Springfield or we can convince them to build one in Mount Vernon. They’ve been in Mount Vernon for 26 years, and we’d like to keep them in Mount Vernon.”
According to Springer, the VA’s plan to move services to Springfield were based on the city’s size and proximity to more veterans. He says building a new VA clinic in Mount Vernon is a practical choice in that if offers a central location within the Ozarks.
Helping to arrange the meeting between the two entities, to take place in Fayetteville, AR, was U.S Representative Billy Long. The congressman for Missouri’s 7th district said in a news release that he hopes the meeting will bring more transparency to the VA than what the agency has previously shown.
Long added, “It should have never needed my involvement for Mount Vernon leaders to receive the consideration they deserve. However, this is welcome news for area veterans and I stand ready to continue ensuring all federal agencies are responsive to the citizens they serve.”
Regardless of the decision the VA will make, Springer says that city officials appreciate Long’s intervention in the matter.
“This whole thing with Billy Long trying to set up the meeting is so that we could at least have an opportunity to say we have the land, we have a group that we’re working with that’s focused on veterans’ care that would like to possible have an opportunity to keep the clinic there and to collaborate with them to enhance the services provided.”
An official for the VA was not available Friday to respond to KSMU’s request for comment.
The 2014 closing of the Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mount Vernon, which cost 323 jobs, is yet another reason city officials are campaigning for the stay of the veterans’ clinic.
The clinic currently serves about 17,000 veterans each year and employs around 200 people. If it loses the clinic, the city would face a loss of revenue from the facility’s utility payments, as well as from the shopping and food purchased by patients and their families.