June 25, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel joined Veterans, staff and congressional representatives on June 22 to open a state-of-the-art, 80-bed acute mental health center at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
“This new facility will ensure that California’s Veterans continue to have access to high-quality mental health care that they earned through their service to our Nation,” said Petzel. “This is a priority for the American people. It’s a priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs. And there is nothing more important to me than making sure America’s Veterans receive the health care and services they need and deserve.”
The new center, on the Palo Alto campus, will provide a continuum of mental health services, from inpatient to outpatient, with an additional research component. The 90,000 square-foot facility will house four units, each with 20 inpatient acute psychiatric beds. The project also includes outdoor enclosed gardens for the patients, a separate mental health research and office pavilion and a utility building to service the complex. Most rooms are private, with some semi-private, and all have private bathrooms.
“This new facility is like day and night to the current one,” said Christopher Hurt, 25, an Iraq War combat Veteran and patient. “I’ve heard other people say they’ve never seen a facility this nice. It’s bright, airy and just makes the healing process so much nicer. It even has a work-out room and basketball court. I love it.”
The building's therapeutic design and healing environments were the result of collaboration with clinicians and considering the perspective of the Veterans who will receive care in the facility. Features to enhance the treatment of Veterans can be found throughout the project, including patient access to landscaped gardens, ample use of natural light in all internal patient and staff areas, views to landscaped areas from all patient bedrooms, color, texture and material palettes selected to aid in the healing process. To view the VA Palo Alto Mental Health Center visit http://www.paloalto.va.gov/construction_mhc.asp.
Last year, VA provided quality, specialty mental health services to 1.3 million Veterans. Since 2009, VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent. Since 2007, VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of Veterans receiving mental health services, and a 41 percent increase in mental health staff.
In April, as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced VA would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 to help meet the increased demand for mental health services. The additional staff would include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.
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