Press-Republican

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December 19, 2013

Malone veterans' clinic will close

MALONE — Congressman Bill Owens says nothing can save the veterans outpatient clinic in Malone from closing in a few months.

Nearly 700 Franklin County veterans use services and programs offered at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic, housed in Cedar Commons on Route 11.

EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY

“Unfortunately, when the extension we were able to secure expires in February, that will be it,” said the Plattsburgh Democrat, who represents the 23rd Congressional District.

The imminent closure “will dictate that those going to the Malone clinic will have to go to a clinic either in Saranac Lake, Massena or Plattsburgh,” he said.

“It’s distressing to me whereby these kinds of sacrifices are happening throughout the district.”

Linda Weiss, director of the Stratton VA Medical Center for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Albany, notified affected veterans in mid-May that the clinic was closing as of Aug. 31.

In July, Owens was able to broker a six-month extension to keep the clinic open until Feb. 28 so the VA could further study the wisdom of its closure plan.

Since then, he said, he has had “subsequent conversations with Ms. Weiss” about retaining the clinic or again delaying the pending closure, but the site will close in less than three months as planned.

HIGH COSTS CITED

Weiss said in her letter to vets that the national average cost of treating a patient at a VA clinic was between $3,000 and $4,000 a year, but the Malone costs were $11,000 per person — the third-highest in the country.

The VA contracts with CRAssociates Inc. to operate the clinic, which provides veterans with primary-health care, behavioral-health services, smoking-cessation support and blood draws.

Weiss said the closure made sense for the VA because the number of clients using services has declined and will continue to do so as veterans age.

Also, the clinic building cannot be easily adapted for advanced technology the agency has started using, she said.

Malone’s site is part of a 29-clinic health-care network the VA operates in upstate New York. It also includes sites in Plattsburgh, Massena, Saranac Lake and Westport. 

 Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com

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