If there was ever doubt about the interest in Somerset's new VA Community Clinic, it was quickly dispelled with Wednesday's open house.
A standing room only crowd of dignitaries as well as local veterans and their families was on hand for the ceremony, which included speeches from Congressman Hal Rogers as well as the Lexington VA Health Care System director Emma Metcalf. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was represented by Field Representative Donna McClure.
"I consider this clinic just a down payment on the debt we owe those who served our nation," the congressman, who served more than six years with the Army National Guard, said.
Invoking President Abraham Lincoln's speech from his second inauguration, which he called the "best collection of words outside the Bible" and a mission statement for the Veterans Administration, Congressman Rogers said this country has a duty "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."
Metcalf noted how humble VA officials were to see so many turn out to share in the excitement of the clinic's impending opening, expected November 13. "I look forward to continuing the tradition in Somerset of excellent veteran care rooted in respect on behalf of a grateful nation."
While Congressman Rogers has been headlining events all over the district this week, Wednesday's star would have to be David Elder. Elder, a World War II Army veteran who had served in the European theater, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance to open the ceremony. It also included American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard presenting the colors and Emily Galloway singing the national anthem.
In his invocation, American Legion Post 38 Chaplain Clarence Floyd noted that while the clinic may be "just a building…what we're looking forward to is the love and compassion that the staff is going to give our veterans when they walk through these doors."
Located at 300 MedPark Drive, just up the hill from the current Tower Circle location, the new state-of-the-art facility was designed by Derek Phillips of the Somerset's own Deco Architects Inc. with Owens Construction serving as the general contractor. The development team, which also worked on Tower Circle location, is comprised of Dr. Brent Cherry, David Morris, Mike Whitaker, and Gene Smith.
The $6 million project was financed through United Cumberland Bank and South Kentucky RECC.
When the current clinic opened in 2009, according to Metcalf, it was projected to last the local veteran community for 20 years but was outgrown in under 10. The new clinic -- at more than 20,000 square feet -- more than doubles the current clinic's space. Serving more than 5,500 veterans a year, the clinic will now offer optometry and audiology in addition to expanding its physical therapy unit.
The examination rooms feature sliding doors to maximize floor space as well as soundproofing and a three-part curtain system to ensure patient privacy. Phillips also noted several of the building's features geared toward doubling energy efficiency standards, including a variable refrigerant flow HVAC system, insulation and LED lighting.
Congressman Rogers noted the clinic "nearly eliminates the long trips out of town" for medical care. He also called for a stop to long waiting lists for veteran care which have been reported in various areas across the country.
"You deserve the very best treatment we can provide," Congressman Rogers told the veterans in attendance. "This clinic is evidence of our commitment to you."