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  • Hamm, Kyle C.
    Army Pfc. Kyle C. Hamm has graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.
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    Air Force Airman Colton T. Barker graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
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    Air Force Airman David J. Sellers graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Parkview Health will remodel a former cancer center for use as the new VA clinic.

Parkview helps VA offer clinic

To remodel site for mental health needs

The Department of Veterans Affairs wanted to rent an outpatient clinic within 5 miles of its VA Medical Center. In the end, it decided on a much closer site – practically next door, in fact.

Parkview Health will spend $5 million to renovate a former cancer center at its Randallia Drive campus for use as a VA clinic for mental health services. The building at 2500 E. State Blvd. is northeast of the VA complex at Randallia and Lake Avenue.

“This has truly been something that Parkview Health has desired for quite a while,” Sue Ehinger, president of Parkview Hospital & Affiliates, said Monday.

“For us, mental health services is one of our strengths,” Ehinger said.

Parkview has hired Johnson Development, a health care real estate company in Birmingham, Ala., to remodel, expand and manage the 25,000-square-foot structure, which was built in the early 1980s, Ehinger said.

VA requires 27,000 square feet of space, and Johnson Development will add 8,000 more during the conversion.

VA will contribute about $1.5 million in design and construction costs and pay yearly rent of $1.36 million to Parkview for 20 years – putting its price tag at nearly $29 million, not counting staffing costs. Congress authorized the project in 2011.

The lease agreement was announced Friday. Denise Deitzen, director of VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, said Monday she had no information on how many bids were received and why Parkview was awarded the contract. The VA project manager in Washington, D.C., referred those questions to the department’s public affairs office.

Deitzen said bids “are reviewed against the criteria that’s been established … and this was the one that was selected, with the best criteria for what we needed to provide care for our veterans.”

Lutheran Health Network did not bid on the lease. Its interest “ended when it became evident that the available space the network had to offer would not be considered” because of “geographical restrictions,” Geoff Thomas, public relations supervisor for Lutheran, said in an email.

VA stated in 2011 it would consider sites “in close proximity” to Fort Wayne. A year later, the agency set the boundaries as Washington Center and St. Joe Center roads on the north, Jefferson and Washington boulevards on the south, Maplecrest Road on the East and Lindenwood Avenue on the west.

The outpatient clinic is expected to open in 2015. Its nearly 100 staffers and administrators will treat military veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and other mental health disorders.

The VA Medical Center, built in 1950, treated 3,245 veterans for mental health disorders in fiscal 2012. Combined, they made 18,000 visits to the center. Moving mental health care to the Parkview site will free space at the medical center for primary care, said Deitzen, adding that demand for VA medical services continues to grow.

“We wanted to be sure that our veterans here were taken care of, and this is the result of that today,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said at Monday’s announcement. “We send them a message that we do care and we are thankful to them for serving our country.”

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said veterans are “a very hurting population” in need of medical care.

Staff members for Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., applauded the VA-Parkview partnership in their remarks.