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Posted 4/30/2015

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By Sean McBride
Public Affairs

On a cold and rainy December morning in Charleston, a large group of people gather in a parking lot outside the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center staring at a box of dirt. It wasn’t the box of dirt that was significant and it didn’t matter that everyone was a little chilly. Everyone in attendance was excited about what was about to take place. The box of dirt signified what was to be the ground breaking of the new Mental Health Research Facility at the VA hospital.

A cold morning of motivated speakers and a ceremonial turn of dirt was just the start of a facility that had long been needed in the area. The Mental Health Research Facility will serve those who have returned from war who are now struggling with wounds you can’t see. The $8.5 million, 16,000 square foot structure will host labs and clinical space to speed treatment discoveries for our nation’s heroes.

“The VA is the expert on mental health care for our nation’s heroes,” said VA Medical Center retired Director Carolyn Adams. “We are proud of the fact that we are discovering the best evidence-based treatment methods for the hidden wounds of war and that we have one of the nation’s best clinical teams to deliver the best care anywhere for our heroes. Our highest priority is to make sure our Veterans receive the very best proven treatment methods for their care.”

The Charleston District constructed the facility over the course of two years, with more than 73,000 hours of accident-free, quality construction, culminating with a ribbon cutting in January 2015. The facility is a one-story structure, but its unique design allows for the future expansion of up to five stories. The VA’s mental health department has more than doubled in anticipation of this facility and has eagerly begun treating Veterans.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with the VA and have done a lot of work with them, but projects like this one have a special place in my heart as a service member myself,” said Lt. Col. John Litz, district commander, at the ribbon cutting. “Along with the VA, we realize the implications that come with this facility and it’s our pleasure to be a part of it.”

Thousands of Soldiers have deployed or will deploy in support of this great nation and the transition back to the civilian world often represents a stressful period of change, uncertainty and isolation for Soldiers and their families. Behavioral health care can make a huge difference in the lives of these Soldiers who have sacrificed so much for us. The Charleston District is proud to have constructed a facility that will be so integral to our nation’s future.