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Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Interior of the new VA Medical Center outpatient clinic.

VA, Parkview tout outpatient clinic

FORT WAYNE -- Parkview Health will spend $5 million to renovate a building at its Randallia Drive campus for use as a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic for mental health services, officials announced Monday.

Officials for Parkview and VA, along with Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, gave an overview of the project, which was announced Friday and has been on VA's drawing board for more than two years.

"This has truly been something that Parkview Health has desired for quite a while," said Sue Ehinger, president of Parkview Regional Medical Center & Affiliates

"For us, mental health services is one of our strengths," Ehinger said.

The one-story, 25,000-square-foot building at 2500 E. State Blvd. formerly housed Parkview's Cancer Center, which has moved to the hospital system's regional complex at Dupont Road and Interstate 69. Parkview has hired health care real estate firm Johnson Development of Birmingham, Ala., to remodel, expand and manage the property, which will add 8,000 square feet in the conversion.

The outpatient clinic is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2015. VA will contribute about $1.5 million in design and construction costs and pay yearly rent of $1.36 million to Parkview for 20 years. Congress authorized the money in 2011.

"We wanted to be sure that our veterans here were taken care of," Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said at Monday's news conference.

The VA Medical Center in Fort Wayne treated 3,245 military veterans for mental health problems in fiscal 2012. Combined, they made 18,000 visits to the center.

Local VA officials said they had no information on how many bids were received on the project and why Parkview was selected. No doubt location was a factor: Parkview's Randallia campus and the VA Medical Center at Randallia and Lake Avenue are virtually backyard neighbors.

Bids "are reviewed against the criteria that's been established … and this was the one that was selected, with the best criteria for what we needed to provide care for our veterans," said Denise Deitzen, director of VA Northern Indiana Health Care System.

When finished, the outpatient clinic will have roughly 100 staff and administrators.