VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Mental Health Center Grand Opening
June 22, 2012 - More than 400 Veterans, VA staff and community members had their first opportunity to get a look at the new Mental Health Center on the VA Palo Alto campus on June 22, following a ribbon cutting ceremony headed up by VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel.
Joining Dr. Petzel on stage were Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, along with Iraq Veteran Christopher Hurt and Navy Veteran Dawn Saugen. Both Hurt and Saugen spoke passionately about what the new facility meant to them.
"The new mental health center is like day and night to the current one," said Hurt, 25. "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 workout room and basketball court – I love it."
The new 80-bed center 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 will ensure that California’s Veterans continue to have access to high-quality mental health care that they’ve earned through their service to our Nation,” said Dr. 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 get the health care and services they need and deserve.”
Dr. Petzel also used this opportunity to announce a new national call center “Coaching Into Care,” a telephone service that provides assistance to family members and friends trying to encourage their Veteran to seek health care for possible readjustment and mental health issues. This service offers free coaching to callers, with the goal to connect a Veteran with VA care in his or her community. Callers will be coached on solving specific logistical problems and ways to encourage the Veteran to seek care while respecting his or her right to make personal decisions.
David Sullivan, a nurse on inpatient psych unit since he got out of the Army in 1999, also spoke about how this new facility would impact the men and women who will provide care to our Veterans 24/7. “There are times I feel embarrassed to admit Veterans in the old facility, but the new one is truly one of the most beautiful hospital facilities I’ve ever seen. What a difference it will be working here.”
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 building. Features to enhance the treatment of Veterans can be found throughout the project, including patient access to landscaped gardens, ample use of natural light to 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.
"The feelings of joy, excitement, appreciation and pure happiness for the opening of this building fill me up," said Saugen. "It's every little design and detail that went into each room that is going to make a difference in every Veteran that walks through these doors."
"This is what a safe, comfortable place to realign your life looks and feels like. And even though I know this battle I face is my own, I know in my heart that I will always have a safe place to heal, along with the most amazing team of doctors, nurses, recreational therapists, fellow Veterans, friends and my mom standing beside me,” she said.
Visit the VA Palo Alto Mental Health Center website for more information.