GAITHERSBURG — James Gray, a disabled veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, will no longer have to drive from Germantown to Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center to receive medical care from the Veterans Administration.
Thanks to the upcoming Sept. 17 opening of Montgomery County’s first community-based outpatient clinic on Gaither Drive in Gaithersburg, Gray can receive the medical care he needs with only a 10-minute car ride.
Sometimes Gray has skipped his appointments or arrived too late to be seen due to the 38-mile trip into the District. Often, when he got there, he couldn’t find a place to park, he said at the Sept. 7 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility.
“This will be a miracle,” Gray said.
The Gaithersburg facility marks the fifth community-based outpatient clinic in the D.C., area. The others are in the District, Virginia, and Prince George’s and St. Mary’s Counties.
The clinic here offers services for primary care, women’s health, mental health, social work, nutrition and hearing problems. There is a pharmacy.
The clinic also will provide services through telehealth technology, in which veterans can speak with doctors and have their cases reviewed without having to come into the office.
“This has been many years in the making. Today is the day. What a joy, what a joy,” declared Gloria Hairston, director of the office of public affairs at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“What was once a great idea is now a great center of healing for veterans,” noted Chaplain Carol Ramsey-Lucas during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
On hand to open the 11,600-square-foot facility were U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, County Executive Ike Leggett, Gaithersburg City Council member Mike Sesma and many veterans.
“We are committed to protecting our veterans. We want to honor our veterans with our words and our deeds,” said Cardin, who noted that 45,000 veterans live in the County and more than 400,000 veterans are Maryland residents.
Van Hollen praised those who helped make the clinic a reality, because, “Veterans shouldn’t have to fight through hours of traffic to get the services they need.”
Leggett, a veteran himself, said much is needed to help those who served their country. He pointed out that some still sleep outside on grates, are unemployed and are living without the health care they need.
Opening this clinic “is the least we can do to address the problems that we see,” he said. “It’s not just the veteran; it’s the veteran’s family, the children” who suffer the effects of serving or living with a loved one who has served, Leggett said.
The goal is for 30 patients to be seen at the clinic each day. The target wait time for appointments is anticipated at two to four weeks.
Those patients also can visit with representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Each of those groups will have an office on site.
The building is ecofriendly; its walls consist of recycled material.