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VA, KU Medical Center expanding health care access

Associated Press Modified: November 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm •  Published: November 13, 2012

"This is a clear example of how federal and state agencies can cooperate to deliver improved mental and health care services in a more cost-effective manner," Brownback said.

The governor said the idea of the state-federal collaboration began with Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican, who sought to expand telemedicine services to veterans. Sloan said the program can serve as a template for expanding access to other Kansas residents, especially those in rural areas deemed medically underserved and lacking sufficient providers.

Easier access and reduction of travel times should lead to more veterans in rural areas taking better care of themselves, said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard.

He said many veterans are forced to take a day or two off of work to travel to Wichita, Topeka or Leavenworth to get to a VA hospital to see a provider, something many cannot afford to do. As a result, mental health issues that can be addressed are left untreated.

"It's truly a model for the nation to look at," Tafanelli said of the collaboration. "This increases the likelihood of veterans seeking the care they have earned and deserve."

Officials said improving access will allow for providers to meet with veterans to check their conditions, order follow up care or even write prescriptions to treat their illnesses. Patterson said some visits have even included surgical telemedicine where veterans have initial consultations with VA doctors before having a procedure completed locally.