By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
The long wait is finally coming to an end. Construction will soon begin on a new VA outpatient clinic in Bakersfield which will provide Kern County veterans with more local services and reduce the need for traveling to Los Angeles for care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on October 2 the awarding of a contract to SASD Development Group LLC in San Diego to build a state-of-the-art and much larger Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Bakersfield to replace its current 26-year old clinic. The new clinic will be located at the corner of Olive and Knudsen Drives in northwest Bakersfield just south of Hodel’s Country Dining restaurant.
Robert McKenrick, Executive Director of Clinical Care at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, stated that the VA is “excited to move forward with a new clinic where we will serve more veterans with some upgraded services to address key areas like mental health, women’s health, and homeless services.” The Bakersfield outpatient clinic announcement was just one of 13 major facilities which will be developed across the nation to improve access to care for veterans according to the vision of the VA Mission Act of 2018.
In October 2009, Congress approved funds to build a new VA outpatient clinic in Bakersfield to expand primary care, mental health, and limited specialty care services. The VA was ready to award the construction contract in January 2016, but at that same time the California High Speed Rail Authority revised the rail project alignment which placed the proposed clinic directly in its path. The VA was forced to find another location which caused further delays in building the new clinic.
The VA is now working with the private sector nationwide for cost savings and to improve the timeliness of bringing on new community-based facilities. In this effort, the VA will lease the new Bakersfield clinic from SASD Development for 20 years. For the $39.7 million lease contract, SASD will build and own the 30,100 square foot building; the VA will operate and staff the clinic.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy celebrated the news of the new VA clinic at a press conference outside his Bakersfield office on October 2. “This announcement is a major victory for our veterans and a huge step forward for this project. But we have to keep working together to see this project all the way through. I look forward to working with Secretary Wilkie and the VA to see the new Bakersfield CBOC open its doors as soon as possible,” stated McCarthy. No set timeline has been given for completion of the project, but the Congressman looks forward to a groundbreaking within the next few months.