|Veterans Clinic Celebrates 25 years, Receives Accolades from Senator Collins|
Celebrating the Caribou Clinic's 25th anniversary included, from left, Percy Thibeault, Gil Bouley, Clare Hitchcock, Phil Bosse, Dr. Roger Shaw, Kris Doody, Ray Guerrette and Bill Flagg.
During a special ceremony in Caribou on June 25, 2012, Phil Bosse, Senator Susan Collins' state office representative in Aroostook County, presented a message from the Senator recognizing the 25th anniversary of the ribbon cutting for the nation's first Veterans' Community-Based Outpatient Clinic at Cary Medical Center.
"The Caribou clinic has served as the proving ground upon which the VA has built a nationwide health care system that delivers much improved access to care for America's rural veterans," said Senator Collins in a recorded statement that was played during the ceremony. "To mark this milestone anniversary, I recently submitted an official statement into the Congressional Record recognizing the work of the dedicated veterans who worked so hard to establish the clinic. Our veterans in rural areas benefit today from the dedication of this landmark work."
The statement Collins submitted into the Congressional Record recalled the history of the Caribou VA clinic. "On June 13, 1987, at the Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Maine, Governor John McKernan was joined by Senators George Mitchell, and William Cohen and then Congresswoman Olympia Snowe to cut the ribbon of the new clinic. As the first Community Based Outpatient Clinic of its kind in the United States, the Caribou clinic served as the proving ground upon which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has built a nationwide health care system that delivers much improved access to care for America's rural veterans," Sen. Collins said on Monday. "Today nearly 3.5 million veterans approximately 41 percent of those enrolled in the VA Health Care System, live in rural areas, many of whom receive care at more than 800 Community Based Outpatient Clinics."
Kris Doody, RN, CEO of Cary Medical Center said, "It is hard to believe that it is now 25 years since the opening of the Caribou VA Clinic. It has been such an honor and privilege to serve our Aroostook County veterans who fought so hard for our freedom and then fought to establish health care services for their comrades, close to home. They would not take no for an answer and they established the first VA Outpatient Clinic in a private rural hospital in the nation," she added. "We so much appreciate Senator Collins for remembering the remarkable efforts of these veterans, many of who are no longer with us but whose legacy lives on in the Community Based Outpatient Clinic at Cary Medical Center."
The statement Senator Collins read into the Congressional Record also included accolades for those who fought to bring the clinic to Caribou, and the continuous role it plays in providing services to rural veterans. "The history of the CBOC in Caribou ... began long before the ribbon cutting, when seven Aroostook County veterans dedicated themselves to the mission of improving access to critical healthcare services to the veterans living in their communities. To accomplish this goal, they established the Aroostook County Veterans Medical Facility Research and Development, Inc. The initial members were: Percy Thibeault, Meo Bosse, John Rowe, Ray Guerrette, Wesley Adams, Walter Corey and Leonard Woods, Sr.
"Over a span of eight years, they committed themselves to convincing the VA to establish a veterans' health clinic in Caribou. They were joined along the way by other concerned veterans, community members and Cary Medical Center, and a number of Maine veterans service organizations. Their initiative paid off eight years later, and today, on the 25th Anniversary of their historic accomplishment, they deserve to be recognized. Our veterans in rural areas throughout the United States benefit today from the dedication of this landmark work. CBOC's are a vital part of veteran health services today.
These exemplary seven men battled to ensure that health care services were available to every veteran living in rural areas. The battle, despite the VA's best efforts, goes on.
Rural areas are still underserved in the types of medical treatment available. In some cases CBOC's don't even have permanent physicians assigned. The Iraq and Afghan wars have created a new generation of combat veterans, many of whom have new medical needs including prosthetic medical treatment, mental health care, and extensive physical therapy needs. I am encouraged by the VA's renewed commitment to rural health care and the $250 million that the VA is allocating for programs for rural communities. But I would urge the VA to do more, and expand one program in particular, the Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) project. ARCH has been tremendously popular in all five of the communities where the pilot program was established. Given Caribou's history, it is especially fitting that Caribou CBOC was selected as one of the five locations.
Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country. We owe them all that we can to ensure they receive the best care possible. The seven men who fought for the Caribou CBOC knew that, and we honor their dedication to their fellow veterans by carrying their work."