Havre Daily News: Sen. Tester tours new VA clinic in Havre

by Patrick Johnston

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester D-Mont. visited the soon-to-be-opened Merril Lundman VA Clinic at the Holiday Village Mall Wednesday, and said it is an impressive facility that will make local veterans proud.

The new clinic is nearly three times the size of its pervious location on 13th Street was designed to make use of the VA’s Patient Aligned Care Team – PACT – model, which is meant to make it a one-stop shop for nearly all veterans medical needs.

Tester said this is especially important since so many veterans have multiple interlocking medical problems, all of which need to be addressed comprehensively, which is what this clinic aims to do.

“It’s always a challenge taking care of veterans in rural America, but the fact is there are a lot of them who live in places like Havre,” he said. “… it’s important for them to have access to health care.”

The PACT model means veterans will, in most cases, need only a single room for all appointments with specialists on hand to address whatever needs they have, and this clinic will be only the second-of-its-kind in the state to use this model.

The clinic will include a full-time provider Mondays through Fridays, expanded mental health care with an on-site social worker, as well as a dedicated women’s health exam room and a laboratory, as well as other specialists capable of working with clients through telehealth.

Tester said the facilities included for female veterans are especially important because in the last few decades the military has changed significantly, and there are more and more female veterans who need care.

The clinic’s namesake, Merril Lundman, was Havre-area veteran who fought to get a clinic in the area until his death Dec. 22, 2007, at age 64, which preceded the announcement of the clinic opening by only a month.

Lundman started a petition drive to request the creation of a VA clinic in Havre after the city was passed over for selection in favor of Cut Bank and Lewistown.

He believed it was unfair that veterans in north-central Montana had to travel so far to receive their benefits, often needing to travel to Glasgow or Great Falls.

Tester also talked about Lundman, who he said worked hard for veterans in the region, and deserves to be remembered for all that he did.

“This clinic is a critical piece of infrastructure that will support veterans across north-central Montana and allow us to live up to the promises we’ve made to our fighting men and women,” said Tester in a press release. “By providing patient care based off a model that puts patient-driven, personalized care first, I have no doubt that it will be very successful. I’m proud to have been a part of getting this user-friendly facility off the ground and serving Havre-area veterans in a way they deserve.”

Tester is the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, and played a significant role in securing the facility and naming it after a Montana veteran, the release said.

Tester sponsored the bill naming the clinic in memory of Lundman.

The clinic will have a soft opening on Jan. 19 with just a few people, a full opening on Jan. 20, and a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for veterans on Jan. 21.