A spokesman with the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center says a new clinic in Saranac Lake could open sometime next month.
Peter Potter told WNBZ Tuesday that officials are targeting mid-May as a potential opening date for the new veterans' affairs clinic.
"We're very excited," he said. "The person who owns the property is almost finished with everything he needs to do to make it ready for operation. We've got our paperwork submitted to Washington, so we're waiting for that official line. And we hope it will all be said and done by mid-May."
The new clinic will be in the Branch & Callanan building, located on Depot Street in downtown Saranac Lake. Dan Reilly of HES Ventures owns the building and has been working on renovations since last year.
Potter says work is nearly complete. He notes that VA staff has already been providing services at the new Westport clinic.
That staff will be in Saranac Lake two or three times a week, although that could change based on demand, Potter says. If demand increases, the clinic will be open more.
Opening a community-based outpatient clinic is a Congressional decision, so VA officials in Albany need to show policymakers in Washington that there's a need for more hours, Potter adds.
"We've got about 4,500 veterans up there that we're being told are available for service, so we want to be able to serve as many as them as possible," he said. "If we can show that there is a need, and there is a need for more services in addition to the two or three days that we're providing it, then we'll increase those services."
Potter says the process for opening a new clinic is lengthy. That's due in part to bureaucratic hurdles, but the extra time also ensures that the facility is up to par.
"It's a long, drawn-out process, but that's specifically to make sure that we spend our money in the best and most appropriate way possible in order to maximize benefits for the veterans," Potter said.
The Saranac Lake clinic will also feature "tele-health." Potter says that will cut down on special appointments in Albany by allowing patients to work with doctors in Albany via advanced telecommunications technology.
Veterans in the Adirondack North Country now have two clinics - one in Saranac Lake and one in Westport, which replaces the now closed Elizabethtown clinic.
At one point, veterans feared they would have no options, as officials in Albany considered closing the Elizabethtown facility, forcing patients to drive to Plattsburgh.
But fierce public outcry and significant lobbying efforts prevented that from happening.
Now, veterans in the Tri-Lakes won't have to risk driving through the Cascade Mountains during the winter months in order to receive care.