An idea conceived nearly two decades ago became a realization as the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System activated its new 155,000 square foot Mental Health Center during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center on Sept. 22.
A crowd of nearly 600 gathered to watch the monumental event and listened as leaders spoke to importance of the new facility and the positive impact it will make in the lives of thousands of Veterans in southwest Florida.
Featured speakers at the event included Bay Pines sirector Suzanne M. Klinker, Acting VISN 8 Network Director Timothy Liezert, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and VA’s Acting Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Miguel Lapuz, who served as the keynote speaker.
“While the state-of-the art building is physically located on campus, Veterans across southwest Florida will have expanded access to the highest quality, patient-centered, mental health care through in-person services as well as Telemental health,” Lapuz said from the podium.
Following the formal portion of the ceremony, leaders and spectators assembled inside the new building to sign a declaration of commitment to suicide prevention as part of VA’s #BeThere campaign, and then toured the facility.
According the Bay Pines leaders, activation of the new center is an example of VA’s commitment to modernizing health care delivery, and is a major accomplishment for the more than 108,000 Veterans who seek care from the healthcare system each year.
“This has been a great day for the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center where we have introduced to Veterans, our staff and stakeholders the mental health center,” Klinker said following the ceremony.
“[The center] will provide, for decades to come, inpatient, outpatient and residential services for America’s Veterans,” she said.
Chief of staff Dr. Dominique Thuriere, who has spent the last 27 years of her career at Bay Pines, played a vital role in bringing the new center to life.
“When the opportunity presented itself for a design for this building, I was really excited to begin to think about what worked best and what environment would be suitable for healing,” Thuriere said.
According to Thuriere, the facility brings together the majority of mental health programs and services into one, convenient location versus being spread out across campus – a Veteran-centered concept conceived by Thuriere as early as 1999.
“Have you seen the offices, the meeting spaces, the conference rooms? Our staff can provide that work…the work that they do in the most amazing environment, and I couldn’t be happier,” she said.
To learn more about the new mental health center and services available to Veterans, please visit www.baypines.va.gov.
This article was submitted to VAntage Point by the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.