VA center getting millions worth of improvements

August 01, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Construction of a more than $6 million mental health clinic and millions of dollars in other capital improvements are set to begin in the coming weeks at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center's campus east of Martinsburg.

The 34,000-square-foot clinic, expected to be completed by January 2011, will allow the VA center to bring all outpatient mental health services under one roof and provide more efficient service, said Timothy Cooke, the medical center's acting associate director.

Facility Defense Consultants Inc. of Wentzville, Mo., was awarded a $6,490,842 contract last month to build the clinic, which will be a single-story building, Cooke said. Construction is expected to begin this month.

"We're trying to get ahead of the curve," Cooke said of increasing caseloads.

Medical center officials have seen a 17.6 percent increase in the number of outpatients who were seeking specific mental health care services, according to federal fiscal year-end statistics provided by the medical center's chief of staff.


Among inpatients served, 19.4 percent were treated for a mental health diagnosis, and Cooke said projections show additional space will be needed to handle continued caseload growth.

The 175-acre medical campus off Charles Town Road (W.Va. 9) is home to the largest post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment program of its kind in the VA system, officials said last week. With 50 beds available for the program, both inpatient treatment and active outpatient programs are available to eligible veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The medical center also has one of the five largest domiciliaries in the nation, and officials said it is unique because it consists of five residential treatment programs -- PTSD, addictions treatment, traumatic brain injury, domiciliary care for homeless veterans and the health maintenance program. The medical center also is among the top centers in the nation in alcohol and drug rehabilitation and treatment services for homeless veterans, officials said.

In addition to the mental health clinic, Cooke, who also is the medical center's chief engineer, said he expects another $5,525,000 in federal stimulus-aided projects to be awarded to contractors by the end of the year.

With the Recovery Act money, Cooke said officials plan to replace the medical center's nurse call and patient wandering systems, relocate the mail room, replace the air-handling system for the medical center's 178-bed nursing home, replace a small transformer with one that will support the additional facilities being constructed and replace a heating plant surge tank.

By the summer of 2010, a 2,500-square-foot expansion of the medical center's emergency room, which also is about to begin, should be completed, Cooke said.

The project will double the emergency room's size and includes expansion of a few examination rooms, Cooke said. Officials hope the additional space will enhance the flow of services provided in the ER, he said.

Construction of a 10,000-square-foot extension on the ground floor of the hospital for new health and wellness center rehabilitation programs also is expected to begin this month. Cooke expects it will be completed in 2010.

"There's a lot of things happening in August," Cooke said.

In addition to those projects, Department of Veterans Affairs officials broke ground in April for construction of a 66,000-square-foot regional data center on the medical center campus.

The $32 million project, awarded to Fairfax, Va.-based HITT Contracting Inc., is expected to be completed next summer, Cooke said.

The facility will replace an interim location in northern Berkeley County that opened in 2005. Officials have said it is one of four centers in the nation.

The data center will operate and maintain systems in conjunction with other VA corporate data centers and serve federal agencies in the Eastern Panhandle, according to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's office.

The medical center and six community-based outpatient clinics serve more than 130,000 veterans in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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