According to the El Paso Times, the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System on Wednesday broke ground on the VA Wellness Center, one of two new clinics for veterans expected to open in the community by the end of 2019.
Officials with the health care system, the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke gathered near Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso on Wednesday to mark the start of construction on the $16 million mental health clinic.
"This is not only a great way for El Paso to address outstanding mental health care needs for veterans, but it's a great way for El Paso to provide an example for the country as to how to work with limited resources to make sure we're delivering care for our veterans," O'Rourke said in an interview Monday.
"This is really something special we're going to be celebrating on Wednesday," the El Paso Democrat said.
Construction of the VA Wellness Center is part of an ongoing effort to improve how the El Paso VA Health Care System provides care to the more than 7,000 veterans in the region.
The clinic was first proposed in 2015 as part of a pilot program introduced by O'Rourke to reform the system to prioritize care for service-related conditions and promote partnerships between the VA and local health care providers.
The program, developed by O'Rourke and local health providers, sought to address the El Paso VA Health Care System's long wait times, which have been ranked among the longest in the country.
The average wait time for an appointment varies by location and specialty. Over the past month, the average wait time for a new, primary-care patient to get an appointment at the main VA Medical Center in El Paso was 23 days, according to the VA's website that tracks wait times.