New VA Clinic Expected to Open in February

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A ribbon cutting is anticipated in the first quarter of 2021 for the new Youngstown outpatient clinic that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved last year.

Michael Downing Realty Ltd., Warrensville Heights, was awarded a 20-year lease agreement worth $24.74 million for the project. Downing Construction, an affiliated company, broke ground in November on the building at 1815 Belmont Ave. 

The existing clinic, 2031 Belmont Ave., primarily serves residents of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties but is open to all eligible veterans, says Kristen Parker, chief of external affairs for VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System. 

In this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the clinic had served 9,575 patients as of June 20 and saw nearly 11,000 patients during the previous two fiscal years.

The Youngstown Clinic is one of 13 VA outpatient clinics VA Northeast Ohio oversees, according to Parker. It employs 94. A volunteer-run food pantry for veterans also operates there. Each year it provides more than 6,240 bags of food to area veterans. 

“They’re looking forward to the new site because we’ve outgrown the one we’re using,” says Susan Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Administration. “The parking should be 100% better. And we’ll have more room inside and more privacy.”   

The clinic is Downing Realty’s third project for VA, says owner Michael Downing. In an online video, Downing says it’s more than 50% finished. Construction of the 35,334-square-foot building is on schedule to be completed in October, Parker adds. 

“VA needs about 90 days after the completion to install furniture, computers and medical equipment. We expect to activate the new clinic in February of 2021,” she continues. 

The coronavirus outbreak and the related shutdowns of businesses affected construction in a few ways, Downing says, such as delays in getting some materials because suppliers were either running on limited staff or had shut down completely.  

Because the VA deemed construction of the clinic essential, work continued, enabling Downing to bring workers from other sites. In preparation for the move, staff members are downsizing their personal effects and the clinic leadership team is working to identify process flow for the new clinic, Parker says.

Meanwhile, patients are still being treated. About half are seen face-to-face when clinically indicated, while other care is provided via telephone and telehealth modalities.

“The coronavirus has impacted the method by which we deliver some of our care; but the quality has remained. Our staff and patients are resilient and are adjusting to the ‘new normal,’” Parker says.“VA patients tend to have more pre-existing conditions that can complicate COVID-19. But we haven’t seen anything that places them at a higher risk.”

Pictured: The new VA clinic building should be finished in October. It will take 90 days to furnish it. 

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.