Craig A struggle. A painful journey. An uphill battle.
These are some of the words used to describe the years of effort necessary to found a health care clinic in Craig for Northwest Colorado veterans. Those efforts paid off about 1:45 p.m. Friday afternoon when community members, local veterans, public officials and Veterans Affairs representatives opened the new Craig Community VA Telehealth Clinic, 551 Tucker St., during a dedication ceremony.
"This is really a red-letter day for Northwest Colorado," said Dr. Michael W. Murphy, director of the Grand Junction VA Medical Center. He described veteran health care in Northwest Colorado as historically being an "empty corner."
"I think we've turned that corner around and are trying to fill it a little bit. : We finally got ourselves a clinic for Craig," Murphy said.
The telehealth clinic will offer on-site nursing care and a variety of medical services including primary care visits for follow-up, mental health visits, blood draws, immunizations, wound care, health screens and medication, blood pressure and diabetes management, among other services. The clinic also will feature state-of-the-art technology that will allow patients to consult via video conference with physicians in Grand Junction.
Many local veterans and veterans' organizations view the clinic as an upgrade to the previous health care option - making the long trip to Grand Junction for health care.
Murphy said the Craig clinic is a step toward keeping the commitment America made to care for its fighting men and women.
"I think we're proud to say today we're going to be able to fulfill that promise," he said.
VA officials said the Craig clinic is the state's 11th VA clinic and will serve an estimated 600 veterans in rural Northwest Colorado and southwest Wyoming. It won't be long before the number of patients surpasses initial estimates, officials added.
Matthew McCombs, a staff assistant to U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, read a statement on behalf of the senator. Salazar wrote the new clinic "helps fulfill an important obligation to our veterans."
George Delahanty, speaking on behalf of U.S. Congressman John Salazar, also read a statement from the congressman. John Salazar wrote that "today is a dream come true," and that he was proud to help provide a clinic that will "serve the Greatest Generation, who saved this country more than 60 years ago."
The Salazars, who are brothers, were praised during the dedication for the work they put into securing the clinic in Craig.
Brian Meinhart represented U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard. Allard's statement said, "I'm proud of this facility, and I'm proud of the veterans it will serve."
After cutting ceremonial ribbon, signaling the clinic's official opening, Murphy told the crowd medical personnel were primed to serve veterans in need.
"We will be here," he said. "Open, ready and with open arms."