VA seeks properties for new Bakersfield clinic

Bakersfield's VA clinic is found in the 1800 block of Westwind Drive, near the intersection of 19th Street.  (KBAK/KBFX)

The Veterans Administration on Thursday began soliciting offers for Bakersfield property on which to build a new outpatient clinic.

Congress authorized replacing the current facility on Westwind Drive in 2010, but progress stalled when the first planned location fell through.

Officials were initially looking at a large vacant lot at the intersection of Golden State Highway and F Street, but the city of Bakersfield has since lobbied hard for that to be the location of a planned High Speed Rail station.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Friday indicating the clinic will be ready by 2021.

Kern County Veterans Service Department Director Dick Taylor was cautiously optimistic about the plan moving ahead, noting that government moves slowly.

"Quite frankly, we've outgrown it," Taylor said of the clinic on Westwind. "I want to make darn sure a few years from now, I want to be celebrating the opening of the doors of the new clinic, not having to have a conversation about why it hasn't already happened."

Taylor says veterans have long complained that the clinic on Westwind doesn't offer a wide enough array of services, forcing many vets to travel to the Los Angeles area for care.

McCarthy says he attached a provision to a recent spending bill requiring the VA to provide periodic updates to Congress on the project.

"Despite overwhelming congressional support for the new outpatient clinic, the replacement facility remained in limbo for years," McCarthy said.

Requests to the VA for more information about services to be offered at the new clinic were not returned Friday, but McCarthy said the new clinic would expand primary care, mental health and specialty services.

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