VA expanding in Grand Junction
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION ” The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction has embarked on a $24 to $30 million expansion.
The 30,000-square-foot physical expansion matches a growth spurt in the number of veterans served there, particularly since the start of the Iraq war, said spokesman Paul Sweeney.
“The growth has been pretty big the last four years ” at least 10 percent,” Sweeney said.
The staff has also grown more than 100 persons in the past 18 months; now, the hospital issues about 500 paychecks.
Among the growing needs addressed at the VA is in the area of mental-health services, according to Sweeney.
“Part of that can be attributed to returning soldiers,” he said.
One of the new staff members is a suicide prevention coordinator ” a position new to the Grand Junction VA Medical Center.
In Grand Junction, the inpatient psychiatric ward will be moved to the fifth floor. That ward will get $1 million in upgrades, primarily for safety ” “to prevent people from hurting themselves and from the staff getting hurt,” Sweeney explained.
According to CNN.com, five U.S. soldiers attempt suicide every day. That compares with one a day before the war started.
Another upgrade involves a 5,000-square-foot, modular-style temporary building to be built south of the hospital. It will house the administration, which had been on the first floor of the hospital.
Taking up the administration’s former space will be social services and other nonmedical personnel who have contact with patients, Sweeney said.
The largest visible change will involve adding a third floor to the north section of the hospital.
Now, the departments of surgery, intensive care, supply and distribution, and the general ward are all in a vertical arrangement. The remodeling will place them all on one floor.
There are 37,000 known veterans living in western Colorado. Of those, 14,000 have registered with the VA, and of those, 11,000 are what Sweeney called “active patients.”
Anyone who received an honorable discharge from the military is eligible for services at the hospital, whether they served “90 days or 20 years,” Sweeney said. “If you got a dishonorable discharge, you’re probably not eligible.”
The Grand Junction expansion will not increase the number of beds. The hospital has 53 beds, a total that includes the Community Living Center, or nursing home.
The Community Living Center, including recovery, palliative care and hospice care, will get “seismic” upgrades, Sweeney said.
A community event hosted by the city this week at the Wheeler Opera House focuses on Aspen’s history and skiing, as well as a presentation by valley native Pete McBride on wild and scenic places.