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Michael Hershman, director, VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, announces on Sept. 14, 2020, that the newest VA clinic will be built near the Grissom Air Reserve Base. This new facility will replace the one in Peru.

BUNKER HILL – Construction is set to begin in the next month on a new Veterans Affairs clinic that officials say will offer more mental health and telehealth services to area veterans.

VA officials joined local leaders on Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new community-based clinic, which will be located near Grissom Air Reserve Base at 1496 W. Hoosier Blvd. The site is currently a large, open grassy area that contains no structures.

The 20,000-square-foot clinic, which has been dubbed the Hoosier VA Clinic, is a multi-million project that will replace and double the size of the current facility at 750 N. Broadway on the north side of Peru. That clinic currently serves around 3,300 veterans.

Michael Hershman, director of the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, which oversees the facility, said the new site will increase the current number of primary-care physician teams from three to five.

The facility will also add three spaces for mental health services and a 1,000-foot area for physical therapy, which is not currently offered at the Peru facility.

Four other rooms will allow veterans to have tele-health visits with doctors and specialists at other VA facilities around the state.

“This means more care and more expanded services for our veterans across this community,” Hershman said. “Our motto at Indiana Northern Healthcare System is excellence, every veteran, every encounter. This new clinic is part of that mission and part of that motto.”

He said the new clinic is the third one that will have built since 2017 in the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System. The other two clinics were built in Muncie and Mishawaka. Hershman said the VA also currently has over $100 million in active projects at its two main campuses in Marion and Fort Wayne.

Peru Mayor Miles Hewitt said during the ceremony he was excited to see what the new clinic would bring to the area.

“With everything that’s going to be here, I’m very overwhelmed and cannot wait until I can tour the finished product,” he said.

VA officials said the new facility will serve veterans in Miami, Howard, Cass, Wabash, Fulton and Pulaski counties, and the new location along U.S. 31 will provide easy access for the veterans in all those counties. Construction should be complete sometime next fall.

VA officials have been discussing the construction of the new clinic since 2017, and its location became a point of controversy after officials in Howard County pushed to get the new facility somewhere closer to Kokomo.

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said last year that the county had been taken off the table as a potential site because of politics, and brought up the issue with U.S. Sen. Todd Young during a meeting of the Military Foundation.

That came after the closure of the part-time VA clinic that opened in Kokomo in February 2018. That VA outpatient facility was housed inside the current city-county clinic at 620 N. Bell St. and was open two days a week to see area veterans.

In January 2019, the clinic stopped seeing patients and moved out of the city-county facility, less than a year after it opened.

Now, the new clinic will become one of a number of major new developments around Grissom Air Reserve Base that represent millions of dollars in new investment in Miami County.

A state-of-the-art isotope production and scientific research facility is nearly complete along U.S. 31, which represents a $70 million investment. Construction is also set to begin next spring on a new $3-million Huey helicopter museum located on 22-acres across from the base.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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