Veteran’s now using 10,000-S.F. clinic in heart of St. John Parish

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008


Staff reporter

RESERVE – From temporary tents set up in the Wal-Mart Parking lot, to a newly completed 10,000 square foot care facility, the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System Outpatient Clinic has come a long way.

The new clinic, located in Reserve directly across from the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home, opened its doors to patients May 9 with little fanfare, but Clinic Manager Vickie Starks said plans are in the works for a more fitting grand opening.

“St. John worked hard to get the clinic here, I think it deserves it,” said Starks. “Nothing is nailed down yet, but we are aiming for somewhere around mid to late July.”

Debra Ceaser-Winbush, public affairs officer for the Veterans Health Care System, said the St. John clinic is a product of the Department of Veterans Affairs CARES Plan, which was initiated in 2002, and set up clinics all across Louisiana.

“CARES stands for Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services,” said Ceasar-Winbush. “The idea behind the plan was to set up satellite clinics in communities so that patients could have easier access to them when they needed treatment. We try to have it so that the clinic is within 30 miles from where patients reside.”

Ceasar-Winbush explained that the St. John Clinic is one of six outpatient facilities across Southeast Louisiana that make up the Veterans Healthcare System. She said position of the clinics is based on a breakdown of where patients reside.

“There is a large veterans organization in this area,” said Ceasar-Winbush. “St. John government officials really pushed for it.”

The clinic got its start in the parish during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Starks explained that the VA set up a mobile health clinic in the Wal-Mart parking lot in an effort to help treat the population in St. John Parish following the storm.

“We worked out of tents that had to be put up and taken down daily,” said Starks. “It was a staff of out of state workers and workers from New Orleans. People were coming up to us crying and thankful for the work we were doing.”

Starks said the tent operation lasted until November of 2005, when Veterans of Foreign Wars post 3337 out of LaPlace offered up their hall. She said the clinic eventually moved into the War Veterans Home while construction continued on the current facility.

“Throughout all the moves and struggles, people were provided with quality healthcare,” said Ceasar-Winbush.

Starks said the clinic is a full service care facility that offers services more geared to veterans. She said in addition to regular primary care, dietary care, and pharmacy offerings, the clinic offers mental health for veterans returning from war, post-traumatic stress disorder programs, and anger management programs.

“It gives them the treatment they need close to home,” said Starks. “We are here to make sure that the veterans receive the best quality healthcare available.”

Starks said the clinic has a staff of 28 full time employees, which includes two primary care physicians and one psychiatrist. She estimates that the clinic probably sees about 40 patients a day

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the clinic at 985-479-6770, or visit