Kaua‘i vets to gain new health center

LIHU‘E — The county Planning Commission recently approved permits for a new health center to serve Kaua‘i’s military veterans in Lihu‘e.

“Some of our veterans need help medically,” an emotional veteran, Joe Munechika, told commissioners. “I’m one of those people that are considered to be kinda stable, but I think I have problems with my association with the time that I served in Vietnam.”

The vision is to have a location for meetings, a museum, a state office for veterans affairs and a place for leisure, said Bill Honjiyo, president of Kaua‘i’s Veterans Council.

“It has been the wish and dream of all the veterans of Kaua‘i to have a one-stop veterans service center,” he said.

“To complete this particular dream we need a permanent state-of-the-art medical and counseling facility,” Honjiyo told the commission at its July 26 meeting at the Mo‘ikeha Building.

For the last 10 years, he said the council has been planning for such a facility and has worked hard to gather support from the Veterans Administration, Hawai‘i Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, and most recently from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gen. Erik Shinseki, a Kaua‘i native.

“We’re excited about this project,” said Craig Oswald of the U.S. Veterans Affairs. “The Kaua‘i Veterans Council is a very key stakeholder organization that we listen to and work with collaboratively to try to understand veterans’ needs and how we can fill those.”

Oswald said the VA has been in dialogue with the council for the last few years about the project.

The VA clinic in the fall of 2010 moved from Wilcox Memorial Hospital to a larger facility across the street from Kukui Grove Center.

“This co-located project will allow us once again to expand the square footage of our clinic,” he said.

There are about 5,000 veterans on Kaua‘i, Oswald said, and about 2,500 use the clinic annually.

“We have some projections for the future that shows that the veterans population is going to be modestly increasing,” he said.

The facility will be on a 3.2-acre site behind Kaua‘i Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e.

It will consist of a 9,990-square-foot health care facility with a 30-foot maximum height, plus an 864-foot storage building. The facility is expected to include 55 parking stalls.

Although the council was looking to commence construction this year, the new health care facility is at least two years away.

“There’s still some bureaucracy that needs to be cleared out,” Honjiyo said.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com.

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