OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the official kickoff of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive healthcare access and delivery system for the state’s veterans.

The program will also design one statewide transitional system of care and then test that system in early 2017. The system will cover healthcare services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services and tele-health capability.

“We have assembled a bipartisan team of lawmakers, healthcare professionals, education professionals and business leaders,” said Fallin. “It is our hope this effort will produce a cost-effective model that can be emulated on a national basis.”

Fallin said the intent of the program is not to point blame, but to identify best practices and areas the state can improve services.

“Many Oklahoma veterans are unable to access the health services that they need and deserve,” she said. “Delivery of health services for a diverse veterans population is a complicated matter. There are many reasons for this, including service restrictions that exist within the current system, lack of coverage opportunities, roadblocks and red tape that slows the process, and service delivery models that do not address specific veteran needs.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Myles Deering, a former adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard who also serves as executive director of the Veterans Affairs Department, said the Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Council will look into other issues involving homelessness, education and training, employment and volunteerism.

“To our knowledge, this comprehensive effort has never been attempted before,” Deering said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, who serves as Fallin’s liaison for veterans affairs, is honorary chairperson of the steering committee, and former Gov. George Nigh is special adviser.

Pete Reed, who served as executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs during Nigh’s administration, is coordinator of the veterans pilot project.

“The primary areas of concern for this effort will include home health, mental health, nursing home and hospice care for veterans,” Reed said. “The overarching focus of the program, however, is to look at the entire veterans healthcare system and comprehensively examine such areas as barriers to care, access to physicians, underserved populations and needed policy changes.”