Sunday, 27 November 2022

A victory for vets: Community celebrates completion of new VA clinic

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From left, Lake County Health Services Department and Veterans Service Officer Jim Brown, Congressman Mike Thompson and Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, cut the ribbon on the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

 




CLEARLAKE, Calif. – As dozens of community members and local officials looked on, Congressman Mike Thompson took a large pair of ceremonial scissors and sliced through a blue ribbon strung across the front of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake on Wednesday afternoon.


It was a moment, according to Thompson and local leaders, that was more than a decade in the making.


The new clinic, located at at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake, will officially open for patient care on Nov. 1.


An estimated 10 percent of all Lake County residents are veterans from one branch of the military of the other, with every U.S. action and war since World War II represented. It's reported to be one of the largest per-capita veteran populations in the state.


Even so, it took years of lobbying by local veterans and leaders, and Thompson himself, to make the clinic a reality, a fact acknowledged in his opening remarks Wednesday by Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, which will oversee the Clearlake clinic's operations.

 

 

 

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Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


The clinic's importance becomes even clearer when considering, as Carroll shared, that 40 percent of U.S. Veterans live in rural areas.


“The planning for this clinic has been a long time coming,” said Carroll, who thanked county Jim Brown, the county's Health Services Department director and veterans service officer, for his lobbying efforts.


The work of Brown and many others was necessary “to get us to this day,” said Carroll, who also thanked Thompson for his longtime support, noting that without it they wouldn't be standing there, opening the new clinic.


Carroll said the VA looked forward to serving local veterans with the dignity and honor they deserved.


District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, said watching the colors be presented at the start of the ceremony reminded him of his induction into the military 40 years previously.


He had dropped a college class which resulted in him becoming eligible for the draft. He recalled going into the induction center and having one side of the room be designated as Marines and the other Navy.

 

 

 

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Dr. Mike Novak, left, introduces his children to Congressman Mike Thompson at the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


“I remember that day,” another veteran, standing in the nearby crowd, said to this reporter.


Comstock thanked the veterans who served the country. “You are what this is all about,” he said.


He also thanked Brown, who he said helped get him into the VA health system 10 years ago. Comstock said the VA takes “fabulous care of us vets,” and he is looking forward to being able to go to the Clearlake clinic rather than having to go to Santa Rosa.


Comstock thanked Thompson and the VA staff, a sentiment that District 2 Supervisor Jeff Smith echoed in his comments.


Smith recalled talking to former Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Frank Cammarata and the late Bernie Edwards 12 years ago about getting a VA clinic in the community.


He called the clinic's opening the single greatest thing to happen in his district during his board tenure.


“We finally got what we've been fighting for for years,” Smith said.


Thompson, himself a Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, said the clinic was important for veterans.


“It's not so much they deserved it, they earned it,” he said.


He thanked the community of veterans and their families, a group whose importance he acknowledged. Like the others before him at the podium, he thanked Brown for his work.


Thompson also thanked the VA, who he said he appreciated despite occasionally having to shout and pound his fist on the desk to get things going.


He went on to recognize the efforts of local veterans in getting themselves a clinic. Thompson said 9,000 veterans signed petitions to let the VA know how important it was to have the facility.

 

 

 

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The front desk of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 


He said both the veterans community and the larger Lake County community are “wonderful.”


Thompson was then joined by Comstock, Smith, Jim Brown and Supervisor Rob Brown in cutting the ribbon.


Both before and after the ceremony, visitors toured the building, which the VA has on a 10-year lease, officials reported.


Renovations on the building – which formerly housed Lake County Mental Health and, before that, a bank – began earlier this year.


The newly outfitted clinic features earth tones in its spacious 8,600-square-foot interior.


A large waiting area leads down halls with numerous new examination rooms, conference rooms with large flat panel televisions for telemedicine, a laboratory and room for administrative offices.


Dr. Mike Novak, a doctor who has been in private practice in Clearlake for 10 years, brought his young family to see what will be his new professional home.


Novak has been hired as the clinic's medical director, and has closed his private practice to make the transition.


“I have a lot of vets in my private practice already,” he said, and many of them will be making the move with him.


He called the new facility “amazing.”

 

 

 

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Visitor pass through the hallways of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


As he was touring the clinic's halls, Thompson – who was peering into what will be the laboratory – was approached by an elderly couple, who thanked him for his help. They reminded Thompson that when their son, a veteran, was fighting throat cancer, he had helped them get their son's VA benefits going.


Thompson's district representative, Brad Onorato, also recalled when the clinic building had housed a bank many years ago. It had a conference room where – ironically – Thompson and local leaders had met to discuss bringing a VA clinic to Clearlake, he said.


Veterans can register at www.va.gov or www.sanfrancisco.va.gov or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

 

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A conference room at the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif. Doctors plan to use telemedicine to assist with treatments at the newly renovated facility. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

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