LAKELAND, Fla. - Just in time for Veteran’s Day on Thursday, veterans in the Polk County area are getting much-awaited news. The federal government is releasing $112 million to build a new James A. Haley clinic in Lakeland.
"Congress allocated funds in 2017. When they open the doors, it will be 2024. That’s seven years," Gary Clark, chairman of the Polk County Veterans’ Council, told FOX 13.
He says it is a much-needed project and the need grows more every day because the population of Polk County is exploding. It is one of the fastest-growing places in the entire country.
The new clinic will be built off Lakeland Highlands Road and will be six times bigger than the existing one it will replace on Pipkin Road.
"We are looking at not only expanding our primary services and mental health, but also adding additional capacity to support primary care," explained David VanMeter, deputy medical center director at James A. Haley.
Appointments are expected to be easier and quicker to get, and time in the waiting room is going to be cut as well.
Larry Kalick, a Vietnam veteran, says another big plus is that tens of thousands of vets like him will have more medical services than ever in their backyard.
"The drive to Tampa is, you know what I mean, just horrible, especially for vets with PTSD," he shared.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for next year. The facility is expected to be complete within two years.
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