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The Montana VA Health Care System will open a $12 million state-of-the-art primary care clinic Tuesday at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center, where veterans will remain in a single appointment room and each provider will come to them in a “one stop shop” approach.

The 20,000-square-foot clinic, which will serve about 5,000 veterans and have more room for staff areas, will provide primary care to Montana veterans in one space and is designed around the VA’s integrated PACT (Patient Aligned Care Team) model.

Mike Garcia, administrative officer for primary care, said PACT is very much the industry standard now being used outside the VA. He was certain veterans would like the new service.

“We feel our products are better than what they will find in the private sector,” he said Monday as he led a tour through the new facility.

There are three teams on each of the two floors who will work with veterans. The facility also has six exam rooms and about 60 employees.

By placing a single PACT team in the same space, VA officials said they can bring in other health care services, such as social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, mental health practitioners and others — even if these services were not scheduled for that particular appointment.

Psychologist Danielle Kahlo said this allows staff to be much more proactive with patients and allows the provider to deal with concerns before they become an issue.

Dr. Erik Vilen said there is a growing number of female veterans, and the staff will take steps to meet their needs. 

The PACT model places clinicians to help with real-time decision-making, streamlines communications and brings care and service support directly to veterans, officials said in a news release. It is the third PACT-designed clinic that Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) has opened since August 2020.

MTVAHCS Executive Director Dr. Judy Hayman said the PACT design lets care teams collaborate instantly to best serve veterans and make all available health care resources a door away.

The clinic will provide services such as primary care services, dietary, pharmacy, mental health care, tele-retinal, tele-audiology, and tele-specialty. There is also dedicated space for group sessions such as VA’s MOVE! Weight Management Program. The clinic’s design incorporates technological improvements such as business Wi-Fi.

The designated parking in front of the clinic entrance has large drop-off points, which will give veterans with limited mobility easier access to primary care services.

The MTVAHCS serves over 47,000 enrolled veterans across Montana. Veterans are cared for by a staff of 1,400 at 17 sites of care across the state. One-third of Montana VA employees are veterans.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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