BRICK – Mayor John G. Ducey recently took a tour of the overcrowded VA outpatient clinic in Brick with Congressman Andy Kim (D-3rd) and VA staff members to get a “bird’s eye view” of how small the facility is and how inadequate the parking is there.
According to the VA staff, veterans book some 400 primary care appointments a day, and patients have resorted to parking in the dirt at the edge of the woods since there aren’t enough parking spaces, Ducey said during the Feb. 5 council meeting.
The township has been lobbying to keep a new 80,000 square-foot outpatient clinic in Brick since the VA is looking to lease a site that could accommodate the larger structure and at least 480 parking spots. Neighboring Toms River has also been promoting a location.
The James J. Howard Outpatient Clinic has been located at 970 Route 70 for 25 years and is used by a large number of military veterans and their families who live in Brick’s 13 adult communities and in other areas of Ocean County.
The township administration has proposed two sites in Brick which are near the Garden State Parkway, are close to Brick Hospital and outside the flood zone.
The first site is behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Cedar Bridge Avenue. The second site is a wooded triangle-shaped piece of property located between Burrsville Road, Jack Martin Boulevard and Route 88, which the mayor told the congressman was a perfect site.
“It’s large enough for the 400 parking spots they want to have, it’s large enough for the square footage they want for the facility, it’s close to the Parkway, it’s not in flood zone, and it’s right next to our hospital,” Ducey said. “It’s the absolute perfect site, and hopefully our congressman agrees.”
More importantly, Ducey said he hopes the VA administration agrees since they’ll be going through the process of lease agreement submissions and financial agreements in March. Both sites would be putting in for that, and he said he assumes another site in Toms River would be applying as well.
“It’s something that our veterans need,” Ducey said. “Speaking with the veterans that were there, they want a bigger clinic, they need a bigger clinic and they need more services.”
The current facility offers teleconferencing, mental health services, primary care, including lab work and simple x-rays, he said.
“All that is available, which sounds like a lot, but depending on what kind of problem you’re dealing with you might not need a simple x-ray, you might need an MRI or a CT scan, in which case you have to drive to the VFW, a bus picks you up and they take you two hours up to the big medical center in East Orange, so that’s going to be available at our new clinic here in Brick,” Ducey said.
The VA is also planning for a pain management department at the new facility which could offer cortisone injections, epidurals and more, he said.
Ducey said at some point in the future he might ask veterans and residents to write letters to the VA asking to keep the new clinic in Brick.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but we may need it in the future,” Ducey said. “If you go there, it’s bursting at the seams and needs to be updated with a new facility.”
The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.