Kansas post hosts new Project ATLAS site

Veterans living in rural parts of Kansas will now have better access to VA health care, thanks to the newest Project ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) site that opened July 6 at American Legion Post 5 in Emporia.

Leadership from The American Legion and Philips North America gathered with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the state of Kansas, including Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Gov. Laura Kelly, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially launch the new Project ATLAS site.

Project ATLAS is a collaborative effort between Philips and VA to bring health care to rural veterans. They work together with The American Legion to combine the convenience of the retail clinic model with Philips telehealth technology and access to VA caregivers — right in an American Legion post. Emporia is the third American Legion post to host a site.

Moran praised his office’s relationship with The American Legion and the collaborative efforts to bring an ATLAS site to Emporia.

“Our relationship with The American Legion has been so solid and so valuable to me as a United States senator as we work to take care of those who served our country,” he said. “Philips and The American Legion came together to make certain veterans across the country have access to health services and in many instances, better access to mental health services.”

Moran said as a Kansan, he understands the difficulties in connecting with medical providers in a vast, rural state where physical distances and internet connectivity and speed can be a hinderance when seeking care. The ATLAS pods address these issues by providing rural veterans with access to clinical care through their VA providers with a secure, high-speed internet connection.

American Legion Executive Director of Government Affairs Chanin Nuntavong said he can’t think of a more fitting place than America’s heartland to open the newest Project ATLAS site.

“Approximately one third – nearly 5.2 million – of the veterans that VA serves live in rural areas and often drive great distances to access VA care,” he said. “Telehealth is vital to increasing health-care delivery.”

Since its founding in 1919, The American Legion has worked to improve the health care of the nation’s veterans.

“Throughout our history, The American Legion has remained committed to meeting the needs of veterans and their families in communities across the country,” Nuntavong added. “We are proud to be a part of Project ATLAS. It’s another important step toward providing veterans with a solution for convenient access to VA health care.”

Jeremy Ehart, commander for the American Legion Department of Kansas, called the technology and privacy offered by the ATLAS pod “impressive” and that is has the potential to help approximately 8,000 local veterans get health care.

“This is going to help local veterans get the care they need,” he said.  “The American Legion here in Emporia is the epitome of what The American Legion is and what The American Legion does.”

Post 5 Commander Clay Childs also praised the new pod.

“The equipment, the environment, the ease of access has all exceeded our expectations,” he said.

Philips is striving to improve access to health care for rural veterans.“We need to get access to care built across this country for veterans and others that are suffering from health inequity,” said Gil Smith, a senior director for Government Health System Development for Philips.He said Philips is “laser-focused” on this mission through their relationship with VA.

“We want to bring care to places where there isn’t care and there isn’t access and continue to grow the access to care for veterans,” he said. “We are building connected care solutions all across the country.”

To learn more about Project ATLAS, visit https://connectedcare.va.gov/partners/atlas.