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*190. Rural Veteran Outreach

Richard W Cotter, Butler VA Medical Center

Objectives: Access to care for rural veterans was improved following the identification of barriers to care and development of an aggressive effort to reach out to rural veterans. Distance, limited public transportation and lack of information were recognized as the major contributors to inaccessible care for rural veterans in Western Pennsylvania. With these factors in mind, a multifaceted rural outreach program was developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Butler, PA in order to rech out to veterans in west central Pennsylvania.

Methods: A multidisciplinary team was identified to assist with the efforts as collateral assignments. The coordinator worked closely with county directors of Veterans Affairs to identify potential sites for the outreach visits such as VFW and American Legion Posts. The coordinator then worked with the local leaders to plan the program and an advertising campaign. The team would visit the post for generally a four hour period during which health screenings (blood pressure, audiology, nutrition, etc.) would be offered along with information on VA services and benefits. Assistance with enrollment along with referral for services was also available.

Results: These efforts resulted in an over 100% increase in the number of veterans enrolled from 7,146 in 1995 to 14,599 in 1999. Moreover, the early outreach experienced helped to identify the need and best location for community based outpatient clinics (CBOC's). Outreach efforts also provided a gradual and smooth transition from health screening services to health care delivery in a community setting. Quality of Care, as referred by the CDI/PI also improved during this period of dramatic growth.

Conclusions: The success of these programs can be directly related to the strong ties developed with local veteran leaders and organizations. The support of these leaders and organizations has helped propel the significant increase in the number of rural veterans currently receiving care from VAMC in Butler, PA and its CBOC's.

Impact: Veterans enrolled at the Butler VAMC increased over 100% from 1995 to 1999. By the year 2000, commulnity based outpatient clinics had been established in four of the counties served. Quality of care measures and patient satisfaction also increased during the period.