A crowd of active military personnel, veterans, hospital staff and community members looked on as a pair of golden shears sliced the ribbon, opening a state-of-the-art Mental Health Center on the VA Hospital Campus Friday, June 22.
The 91,000-square-foot center will have the capabilities of housing up to 80 inpatients, and provides privacy and amenities that the previous facility lacked. The new center replaces a facility that could not adequately house patients and did not meet the earthquake safety standards for the area.
"This is what a safe, comfortable place to realign your life looks and feels like," said Dawn Saugen, a Navy veteran and former patient at the VA hospital's previous facility.
U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Dr. Robert Petzel, Department of Veteran's Affairs Under Secretary for Health, spoke at the opening of the facility.
Saugen, who served four years on a Navy destroyer, described for the crowd how she felt uplifted walking into the new facility, knowing she would always have a safe place to heal.
The new center features private bathrooms for all inpatients and a maximum of two patients per room, whereas the old facility often jammed four patients into a single room.
"There have been times when I was a little embarrassed admitting new veterans and orienting them to the (old) facility," resident nurse David Sullivan said. "This new building truly reflects how we at the VA feel about our work and those heroes we try to serve."
Open-air gardens located throughout the facility ensure that admitted veterans would always have access to the outdoors and fresh air. Patients will also have access to an outdoor basketball court and walking path.
The Mental Health Center also implements new safety features including uninhibited sightlines between nursing desks and patient areas.
"The work that will be done here and the need in our country cannot be overstated," Eshoo said. "When they (troops) come home, it is our responsibility as a nation to put our arms out and say, 'we are not only here to welcome you but to bring you everything that you need.'"