Montezuma Creek in far southeastern Utah will be the site for one of 10 new rural outreach clinics that the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to open around the country by August 2009, department officials said Friday.

James Peake, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said his agency has pledged to increase access to care for thousands of veterans living in rural areas. The new clinics in Utah and nine other states will provide primary care, case management and mental-health services.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Terry Schow, Utah's VA executive director.

Schow is on Peake's new 13-member Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee, part of the VA's initiative to increase outreach to vets living in rural areas.

Schow said the current VA formula for deciding where to build new VA centers is geared toward larger population centers like Salt Lake City, which has a huge VA hospital that draws combat veterans. Once outside of Salt Lake City, however, there is no city large enough to qualify for a VA center under the federal agency's current criteria.