The San Francisco VA Medical Center, which was founded in 1934, has a long history of conducting cutting edge research, establishing innovative medical programs, and providing compassionate care to Veterans. We are a proud community dedicated to meeting the health care challenges of all generations of Veterans. In addition to our hospital, we have a long-term Community Living Center and six community-based outpatient clinics in Clearlake, Santa Rosa, Eureka, Ukiah, and San Bruno. We also have a specialized homeless Veterans clinic in downtown San Francisco.
With over two million Americans serving or having served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands will return with combat-related injuries requiring specialized care. In an effort to ensure these men and women receive the care they deserve, great strides are being made to expand the service we provide not only at the Medical Center, but also in our community-based outpatient clinics. In 2007, the Integrated Care Clinic was created specifically to meet the health care needs of the newest generation of Veterans. This clinic co-locates Primary Care, Mental Health, and Social Work Services. During the first visit, the patient meets with a Primary Care Provider for a comprehensive health exam, a Mental Health professional to discuss readjustment, and a Case Manager to address other post-deployment issues. This type of care is also now provided at all of our Community-based Outpatient Clinics, allowing for better coordination of care. We have expanded our post traumatic stress, substance abuse treatment services and suicide prevention efforts, as well as our Women’s programs. Women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population with approximately 15% of current era Veterans being women. We have been in the forefront of providing quality care to women Veterans, having established the Women Veterans’ Comprehensive Health Center in 1993. We provide care in a designated and private clinical area that includes primary care, mental health care and social service. Our primary care clinics now have a patient care “team” (consisting of a provider, RN, LVN and clerk) for each Veteran to provide better access and better coordination of care.
As part of our community outreach, we are one of the first VAs in the country to partner with a community college, through our unique partnership with City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, City College of San Francisco, one of the largest community colleges in the country, has experienced exponential growth in its Veteran student body, from approximately 200 Veterans in 2006 to 1,067 Veterans in 2011, and the number of Veterans enrolled at CCSF is projected to continue to increase rapidly. In response, they opened a newly modernized Veterans Resource Center with the mission to serve students who are Veterans and to enhance their successful transition from military life into civilian careers. San Francisco VAMC mental health and outreach staff are on-site five days per week to provide enrollment and mental health counseling services. This has been a great success and we fully believe that student Veterans should have easy access to VA care; this program has been a great first step.
As a new generation of Veterans comes home, we will continue to enhance our programs and find innovative ways to meet their health care needs. We will embrace VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence, or “I Care” as it is known. We believe that “I Care” is more than just words, and we are committed to demonstrating that to the Veterans we serve. Our Veterans deserve health care that is second to none, and that’s what the San Francisco VA Medical Center will continue to provide!
Lawrence Carroll is the Director of the San Francisco VA Medical Center and is a Veteran of the US Army.