Editorial: Veterans get better services locally

For well over a decade volunteers have driven Central Oregon veterans in need of medical care across the mountains to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Portland. Now, while some vets still will need to make the trip, many, many more will be able to get what they need within an easy drive from home.

Bend’s outpatient clinic, which opened its doors on a relatively limited basis back in 1999, started this week in new digs with much more to offer the men and women of the region who served their country and qualify for VA medical services as a result.

Among other things, the new clinic offers physical therapy, audiology service and much expanded mental health services. Yet even the five mental health providers on staff cannot meet the demand in the region, and some will receive services at one of five telehealth stations linked to a VA facility in San Diego.

All that is very good news for local veterans in need of health care. It’s also good news to the volunteers who have filled in the gap over the years.

For five days a week, vans driven by veterans and other volunteers have and will continue to take veterans to Portland so they can receive care that isn’t available locally. While the number of riders is likely to diminish in the wake of the local clinic expansion, some still will need to make the trip.

For the van drivers, it’s been a labor of love over the years. That surely must be especially true in the wintertime when the vans, which take the Mount Hood route to Portland, must run in downright terrible weather. Yet drivers have faced down everything from blizzards to black ice in order to assure veterans in need get the health care they require.

The van service is run by the Disabled American Veterans as part of a transportation program that began with Henry Ford’s donation of 50 Model T Fords to the group to transport World War I vets.

We suspect that those who do the driving will not be sorry to see their load diminish, for it will do so because better service is available in Central Oregon. It’s the best possible reason to have one’s workload go down.

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