A year ago, COVID-19 restrictions rendered dedication of Gainesville’s two newest Veteran Affairs clinics impractical.
On Friday, however, patients who have benefitted from services offered by these facilities since they opened in 2023 were able to personally take part in the celebration.
Veteran Charlie Ray Jackson, who served in the Persian Gulf War, was among the crowd in attendance at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System’s ceremonial dedication of the clinics. The facilities include a primary care center and a mental healthcare center.
The buildings share a 30-acre lot located in the 5400 block of SW 34th Street.
“They’re by far the best facilities that we have been introduced to in North Florida/South Georgia,” Jackson said. “I’ve been getting treatment here in the facilities for probably 20-plus years, and this is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of recognizing and providing adequate healthcare for veterans.”
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System leadership had initially hoped to expand the existing Malcom Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Archer Road, but found themselves limited by the confines of that space, said keynote speaker Thomas Wisnieski, former director of the health system.
They requested funding for a new site in 2015, Congress approved the request in 2018 and construction on the once heavily wooded SW 34th Street site began in 2021.
Among the services offered at the two-story, 70,849-square-foot primary care clinic are prosthetics, radiology, women's health, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Across the expansive parking lot, providers at the single-story, 39,932-square-foot mental health clinic specializing in psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress and more.
Each building is leased from a private entity for a 20-year term, and it cost $30 million in total to equip each as a medical facility.
“This has afforded us, in addition to providing this glorious environment to wrap our arms around veterans in the notion of whole health, it’s provided us the opportunity to free up some space at [Malcolm Randall] to further enhance our specialty services,” said Wende Dottor, interim health system director.
Additional speakers at the event included David Isaacks, network director of the Sunshine Healthcare Network; Brandi Stockstill, director of policy and programs for the Veteran Affairs Office of Real Property; and Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Gainesville), who represents Alachua County as part of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.
Alachua County is home to 15,660 veterans, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available.
These buildings did not open for care until the beginning of 2023 not 2022.