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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Top VA officials visit Charleston VA

Research building grand opening

Helen Richards, sister of Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson, Dr. Kathleen Brady, interim associate provost for research at MUSC, Scott Isaacks, Charleston VAMC director, Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA interim under secretary for health, and Lt. Col. John Litz, commander at the Charleston district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, cut the ceremonial ribbon during a grand opening ceremony for the Charleston VAMC’s new Mental Health Research Building Dec. 8.

By Tonya Lobbestael
Monday, December 15, 2014

VA Deputy Secretary The Honorable Sloan Gibson and Interim Under Secretary of Health Dr. Carolyn Clancy visited the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in early December to learn about quality care best practices here and get a first-hand look at the new Mental Health Research Building that opened on Dec. 8.

“The Charleston VA ranks among the top 10 percent of healthcare organizations in America,” said Gibson.  The facility achieved a 5-Star Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning Value (SAIL) rating in fiscal year 2014, ranking Charleston VA in the top 10 percent of VA medical centers nationwide for quality of care and efficiency.  The VAMC is also ranked in the top 10th percentile nationally by Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) which compares public and private sector medical centers.

Gibson also applauded Charleston VAMC for improving wait times for Veterans despite growing its patient population by 7.44 percent in 2014 – the sixth-fastest percent patient growth rate for VA’s nationally.  Charleston VAMC has added weekend and evening clinics, added 80 new clinical staff, approved approximately 190 more positions, and is hiring in advance of anticipated vacancies to maintain access to care.

“Charleston is a hub for mental health care in the Southeast and particularly for tele-mental health,” he said.  Charleston VAMC has some 20 dedicated TMH providers that facilitated 14,000 TMH counseling session to Veterans – many of whom were treated via tablet computers from their own homes – in 2014.  That is more TMH sessions than any other VA in the country.

Clancy, who served as the keynote speaker for the Mental Health Research Building Grand Opening ceremony, praised the integration of Mental Health researchers and basic science researchers in the new facility.  Research studies in such areas as PTSD, Tele-Mental Health, and repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation are being conducted at the new $9.9 million 16,000 square foot facility that includes five wet labs and 27 treatment rooms, and three group rooms.

“Last year, we provided specialty mental health services to more than 1.4 million Veterans (nationwide), many with mental health issues related to their combat deployments,” said Clancy.  “These are symptoms that we often saw in Veterans of long-ago conflicts that didn’t have a name.  Now we have a name and are developing treatments.”

More than one million military members are expected to join the ranks of American Veterans over the next few years.  Locally, 54 percent of newer VA users have sought care for mental health disorders.


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