Bay Pines to Fill Veterans’ Mental Health and Housing Needs

An artist's rendering of the new mental health care facility being built at Bay Pines VA in St. Petersburg.

Veteran visits for mental health care at Bay Pines VA in St. Petersburg jumped 18 percent last year. That means there were about 150,000 veteran visits in 2010.

And the need for mental health care visits is expected to increase as much as 42 percent in the next two decades.

“We have more and more veterans coming back from the Middle East seeking treatment for mental health conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Faith Belcher, spokeswoman for Bay Pines VA.

To accommodate the increased demand, this week officials signed a $92 million deal to build a new, mental health facility linked to the main hospital at Bay Pines. The 156,000 square-foot building will allow the VA to expand its inpatient mental health care programs for PTSD, military sexual trauma, substance abuse and acute mental health conditions.

“We currently provide treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but this will allow us to serve more veterans and provide additional types of care including inpatient treatment programs for that diagnosis,” Belcher said.

It will take two and a half years to build. The current facilities will then be renovated and used for outpatient care.

Housing for homeless veterans is the other big news out of the Department of Veteran Affairs. It  is expanding its housing for homeless and at-risk Veterans to 34 VA locations across the country.

That will mean an additional 5,000 beds available for homeless veterans. There are currently 15,000 transitional beds available.

A recent strategic study, the Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative, identified unused and underused buildings at existing VA property with the potential to develop new housing opportunities for homeless or at-risk Veterans and their families through public-private partnerships.  Additional opportunities identified through BURR will include housing for returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and their families, assisted living for elderly Veterans and continuum of living residential communities.

To expedite the project, contractors will be asked to develop multiple sites in a region. VA will hold a one-day national Industry Forum in Chicago for interested organizations on July 13, 2011.  For information regarding the forum mail to:

Supportive housing projects are planned for homeless Veterans and their families at 23 VA sites: Tuskegee, Ala.; Long Beach and Menlo Park, Calif.; Bay Pines, Fla.; Dublin, Ga.; Hines and North Chicago, Ill.; Danville and Fort Wayne, Ind.; Leavenworth, Kan.; Perry Point, Md.; Bedford, Brockton and Northampton, Mass.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Minneapolis and St. Cloud, Minn.; Fort Harrison, Mont.; Castle Point, N.Y.; Chillicothe and Dayton, Ohio; and Spokane and Vancouver, Wash.

Under the enhanced-use lease agreements, Veterans will receive senior and non-senior independent living and assisted living at eleven VA sites: Newington, Conn.; Augusta, Ga.; Marion, Ill.; Topeka, Kan.; Togus, Maine; Grand Island, Neb.; Big Springs and Kerrville, Texas; Salem, Va.; Martinsburg, W.Va.; and Cheyenne, Wyo.

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