New VA Mental Health Facility Opens in Palo Alto
When Army veteran Christopher Hurt returned from his second deployment to Iraq in 2010, he knew he wasn't quite himself. His mother was worried.
"I was becoming very distressed over at my house, or in her house," Hurt said. "And there wasn't anything going on, and I was hearing things that weren't actually happening and other stuff," he said.
He was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the Palo Alto VA. He says the experience was like being in jail. "Pretty much everybody that's in there thinks of themselves like if they were a criminal or something, compared to being a patient," he said.
The Palo Alto VA's new $54 million mental health center, which opens Friday, is designed to improve conditions for patients while fulfilling the facility's research mission. Dr. Robert Petzel is the Undersecretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He says the upgrades will help meet a growing workload.
"That's an intense academic atmosphere, and people come there so they can not only be involved in the clinical care, but can do clinical research and be involved in the education effort," Petzel said.
The new center is also designed to deliver more effective treatment to a diverse population of veterans, including women, the elderly, and those who have recently returned from deployments. Officials say that being able to separately treat these groups gives them a better opportunity to heal.
On a visit to the new facility, Christopher Hurt liked what he saw. "It's almost like a hotel compared to what it used to be, which is more like a prison cell at first," he said.
Built with outdoor gardens and exercise areas, the VA says the new facility is worthy of those who have served their country.