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The 38-bed facility will offer inpatient treatment for a variety of veteran psychiatric needs.
Friday, May 17, 2013
A new building that will house mentally ill veterans during their treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem is nearing completion.
Construction of the $9.5 million, 38-bed facility comes as more veterans return from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with mental health needs.
Last year, the Salem VA received $1.7 million to hire an extra 13 mental health staffers as part of a national effort by the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve its psychiatric treatment program.
A spokeswoman for the Salem hospital said plans for the new building predate that initiative.
Nonetheless, “this will be a significant improvement over our current facilities for acute psychiatry treatment,” Marian McConnell said.
The 25,000-square-foot, two-story building will offer inpatient treatment for veterans who have been involuntarily committed and for those who agree to be admitted.
While those patients are currently being treated in a different part of the hospital with about the same number of beds, the new facility will include larger patient rooms, group space, training areas and a common dining area and day room.
The new building also will have better accommodations for women and geriatric patients.
Located on a sprawling campus near the Roanoke-Salem boundary, the Salem VA provides medical and mental health treatment to veterans across Southwest Virginia.
The new inpatient facility will also take patients from the rest of the state, part of West Virginia and occasionally from North Carolina.
Construction began in June 2012 and is expected to be completed this fall.
VA officials plan to assess the space currently being used to house mentally ill patients for other programs.
Inpatient treatment is just part of a mental health program at the Salem VA that also offers outpatient counseling for depression and anxiety, substance abuse, relationship problems, and post-deployment issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.
The 13 new positions funded last year — 11 clinicians and two support staff — have been filled, supplementing a mental health staff of more than 200.
Nationally, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans last year to hire 1,600 new mental health clinical providers and 300 support staffers. About 1,300 of those positions had been filled by the end of January.
The number of veterans receiving specialized mental health treatment from the VA has increased from 927,052 in fiscal year 2006 to more than 1.3 million the most recently completed fiscal year.
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