Suffolk County may have more veterans than any other New York State county outside New York City, but many of its vets still had to travel more than 50 miles to receive basic health care.
The new state-of-the-art medical clinic operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had its grand opening at the County Center in Riverside Friday. The new center will help local veterans cut down on trips to the Northport VA Medical Center, the region’s only full-service veterans hospital.
The $1 million facility, called the East End Veterans Clinic, provides care for physical and mental conditions.
The 4,400-square-foot clinic is located in the second floor of the county office building at 300 Center Drive off Route 51 and consist of six exam rooms, two counseling rooms, space to process paperwork and a lobby, officials said.
Health services were previously available at the Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing base at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Mental health services were provided at the Riverhead American Legion Post 273.
Northport VA Medical Center Director Phillip Moschitta thanked both the 106th Rescue Wing and the Riverhead American Legion for their support, but said veterans will be able to obtain care more conveniently at the new location as the other locations had limited hours.
“It wasn’t an appropriate space,” Mr. Moschitta said. “It worked for many years, but we want 21st century health care.”
County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who has pushed for the new center for some time, said he would like to see audiology services added to the Riverside clinic. He noted that his own father had his ear drums blown out during combat in World War II.
“I can guarantee most of the older vets have some type of hearing loss,” he said.
But for East Hampton veteran Joseph Giannini, who just recently started using the VA’s services and was at Friday’s ribbon cutting, the new center will cut down on the number of 150-mile roundtrips to Northport.
“It’s a long, long ride,” he said, “This is perfect for us.”