The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston has opened its latest expansion–the Veterans Enrichment Center to serve the 13,000 mental health patients at the hospital.
VA spokesperson Tonya Lobbestael–
“It is a 7,000 square-foot addition onto the front of the VA that is going to house mental health services–especially for veterans who are living long-term with mental illness,” says Lobbestael.
Lobbestael says they began the project about 18 months ago.
“We partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to design and build, and we are just thrilled because this really is one of the hallmark moves for the expansion and the aggressive stance that we have taken in the VA to make sure our veterans are getting timely access to mental health care,” says Lobbestael.
In 2006, the Charleston VA had about 13 percent of all patients who needed mental health services. That number has increased significantly.
“We’ve really done a lot more than just build a building. We have more than doubled the size of our mental health staff in the past five years, and we have seen those veterans who are currently our patients, we serve over 55,000 here at the VA, with about 25 percent of them now receiving mental health services. That is up 12 percent over five years ago,” says Lobbestael.
Lobbestael says the new Enrichment Center is an addition in the front of the VA, to serve multiple purposes.
“It is full of wonderful glass-fronted classroom settings where they’ll be doing psychosocial rehabilitation, staff offices, group meeting rooms, a lovely courtyard where they can have some outdoor activities–which is very, very nice,” says Lobbestael.
Lobbestael says the structure of the building was designed to allow room for more growth on the top of the new Veterans Enrichment Center. The mental health service portion of the Charleston VA has increased its staff from 71 to 190 in the past five years due to the increase in mental health service demands.