The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a site selection for the new and expanded Outpatient Community Clinic in Fort Smith.

The decision comes after nearly two years of study and due diligence working closely with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and community leaders.

The proposed 45,900-square-foot building will be located at 5500 Phoenix Ave. and further solidify the burgeoning medical and commercial corridor in the area. The clinic will more than double the space currently offered by the Fort Smith VA Clinic located at 1500 Dodson Ave. within Baptist Health-Fort Smith.

The new clinic will represent the relocation of the existing outpatient clinic that is currently in Fort Smith.

“This decision strengthens Fort Smith’s affinity for its veterans and insures that they’ll continue receiving the high level of care that they deserve,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Discussions for this facility have been ongoing for more than two years and we couldn’t be more pleased that the Department of Veterans Affairs have chosen to not only keep this facility based in the community, but expand their presence here.”

There are about 15,000 veterans in Crawford, Sebastian and Franklin counties who use the facility. With a larger facility, the number of veterans served by the VA in Fort Smith is expected to increase. In addition to better access to veterans in the region, the new VA clinic will provide about 100 jobs, including doctors and nurses and support staff.

The CBOC in Fort Smith was opened in 2001 and consisted of four primary care teams. Today, the clinic has grown in both space and staffing, and now has eight Patient Aligned Care Teams. This 34,000-net-usable-square-foot facility will replace and expand the existing leased facility, and provide state-of-the-art space for outpatient services to address space deficiencies, a VA news release states.

“The current location has served the VA well, however, a move to a larger facility is crucial to our modernization efforts and our ability to be the healthcare system of choice for our River Valley Veterans,” said Kelvin L. Parks, director of Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.

The new facility will serve over 10,000 unique veterans annually within a30-minute drive time and will include primary care, mental health, audiology, optometry, radiology, and lab services.

“This is just one more tangible decision by an organization who understands the resources that Fort Smith has to offer,” Allen added. “This facility will showcase leading-edge technology, skilled talent, a full scope of services and increase the already overall high level of medical care in the region.”

The new VA Clinic represents a capital investment of between $8 million and $12 million, Allen noted.

There are an estimated 20,000 military veterans in Sebastian County and another 10,000 or so in Crawford County who are eligible for veterans benefits. About 100,000 military veterans are estimated to be in the west central and northwest Arkansas regions, according to Jon Baker at Sebastian County Veterans Services.