Construction underway on new mental health center for veterans
By John McPhaul
With an investment of $50 million in federal funds, more than 23,000 veterans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will have a new health care option with the construction of the Center for the Home and Psychosocial Program for Outpatients of the Veterans Administration (VA), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón and VA Caribbean Health System (VACHS) Director Carlos Escobar announced over the weekend.
“Veterans of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands deserve a place to heal their mental wounds after their service to our nation,” the resident commissioner said. “For too long we have asked our veterans to care for themselves away from their homes and families, but today, we welcome an investment of $50 million in federal funds to provide, here in Puerto Rico, state-of-the-art care with a staff culturally connected to help veterans, offer them hope, validating strengths, teaching skills and facilitating community integration so that each veteran can develop meaningful roles in the community.”
Construction work began on July 14 and is expected to end in March 2023. More than 750 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be generated during construction and 125 in operation. The complex covering 74,149 square feet will have 177 parking spaces, a five-story building and 40 rooms for a long-term rehabilitation program. The center will have two programs: residential and psychosocial recovery.
The Residential Program consists of 40 apartments designed to function as a residential rehabilitation program for veterans, promoting the development of new skills and abilities needed to live independently in the community.
The new program will allow the Veterans Hospital in Puerto Rico to treat those patients on the island and not have to transfer them to the mainland U.S. Such transfers affect veterans in negative ways, separating them from their families and preventing direct support from them during recovery. Cultural or language barriers will no longer have a devastating effect on the health care and rehabilitation process.
The Psychosocial Recovery Program is provided as a community-based, recovery-oriented alternative, with growth and skill development interventions, and support for veterans with mental health-related conditions and behaviors.
With an operating budget of around $600 million, VACHS is a care system serving the 23,000 veterans of Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I., consisting of a medical center in San Juan, and 10 outpatient clinics located across the island (Arecibo, Ceiba, Comerío, Guayama, Mayagüez, Ponce, Utuado, Vieques) and the U.S.V.I. (St. Croix, St. Thomas).