BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – The Beckley VA Medical Center celebrated Memorial Day weekend early on Thursday with the grand opening of their new 11,000 square foot mental health building.
The ceremony was attended by prominent Beckley VAMC administrators and employees, including Director of the Beckley VAMC Desmond McMullan and Beckley VAMC employee and Army Veteran Brian Sullivan, as well as project contractors, the facility’s executive leadership team, its mental health team, staff members and other colleagues.
Representatives from the offices of Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Senator Joe Manchin and Congresswoman Carol Miller were also present and addressed the Beckey VAMC on their dignitaries’ behalf.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem performed by Aretha Van Horn and an invocation given by Chaplain Bricker, McMullan took to the podium, thanking everyone for attending such a special event for the center.
“The Veterans Administration is proud to be here today to commemorate the opening of this new building,” he said, explaining that the building will provide mental health services and other necessary services to “help heal the wounds of those who have served.”
While speaking of what he believes the new building will accomplish for the area’s Veterans and the Beckley community, McMullan highlighted the work of Joseph Peplowski, the project’s contracting officer representative who was part of the project from beginning to end- a process that took years to complete.
According to McMullan, Peplowski was responsible for facilitating the building and expansion project, managing administrative and fiscal challenges related to the project and even contracting the building.
Following the ceremony, Lootpress spoke with Peplowski, who says he is excited to see the building open and being used.
“I think it is wonderful, and it’s a great asset for the Veterans,” he said. “I was just glad to help out.”
“Our Veterans are those who served us so we can have the freedoms we have in this country, and I think it gives the community a great deal of pride to serve our Veterans,” McMullan noted. “I think when we put programs, buildings and attention to the forefront and show something positive like this, it resonates for Veterans and the community too.”
McMullan continued, stating that it’s obvious if someone is in pain if they have a broken bone or are bleeding but that mental health issues aren’t always easy to see. The new facility will work to provide a safe place for current and new Beckley VAMC patients so that they can openly express how they are struggling and what they are struggling with.
The building’s primary services are wide-ranging and will focus on PTSD therapy, suicide prevention services, medication management therapy counseling services, substance abuse counseling services, homelessness services, employment services and more.
The two-level building’s open layout, numerous windows and bright colors are designed to help with the recovery process.
With one exam room and five consultation rooms on each floor, the facility’s goal is to focus on face-to-face interaction in a comfortable setting, one that doesn’t necessarily feel like a medical center.
Sarah Yoke, Beckley VAMC Public Affairs Officer and Congressional Liaison, pointed out that patients can see the main hospital from the new center, which helps them feel less disjointed in terms of service.
The medical center currently has seven providers, one of which is an on-site psychiatrist and another who is a telehealth provider working out of Richmond, Virginia. All 10 consultation rooms can offer telehealth services if the patient is not able to travel or cannot make it to the appointment in person for any reason.
The building also has a group therapy room that can currently seat up to 10 people to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. The center has already started offering group therapy sessions.
Sullivan, who has been working at the VA in mental health for eight years and currently works as a vocational rehabilitation specialist, says the mental health facility was greatly needed as the hospital was running out of room to serve all their patients.
“After 2003, we had a lot of OEF/OIF Veterans returning home from service. As they returned home, our need grew for more mental health services and, of course, more space.”
Sullivan says the additional space will benefit both patients and providers because they are not so limited in their meeting space and scheduling as they were before. He explained that, prior to the construction of the new building, providers were sharing offices and had to make sure no other providers would be using the office when they were.
It was becoming very difficult for the hospital to accommodate all the Veterans seeking mental health services.
“This really freed us up so we can see more patients and not be pressured in a confined space.”
Sullivan also said that the new facility gives him comfort that the area’s Veterans are being provided the best care possible.
Calvin McClanahan, a Veteran who Sullivan has worked closely with, expressed his excitement for the new facility, especially after seeing how the VA helped him when he was in need.
McClanahan met Sullivan in 2015 after losing his job. The VA helped McClanahan, who had been living with his mother, find a federal job that paid more than the one he lost, allowing him to eventually purchase his own home.
McClanahan is now a volunteer at the Beckley VAMC.
“It is great,” he said of the facility, detailing just how important mental health services are in a Veteran’s life. “It’s like a person without tools. You can’t get nothing done. It will be great for them because it was definitely perfect for me.”
The medical center opened to patients one month ago and has already proved to be a wonderful resource to the Beckley VA Medical Center.