VA breaks ground on new research building

      Rendering of new PTSD/mental health research building at VA Medical Center (Scott Garrand/WCIV)

      By Sonya

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- An addition is coming to the VA Medical Center.

      The new building will be dedicated to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health research.

      "I can't even express how wonderful it was to be able to stand here as the director at the VA and to be representing veterans across the nation and to break ground for research here at Ralph H. Johnson," said Carolyn Adams, director of VA Medical Center.

      The new building, which will feature five wet labs, 27 exam rooms and three group rooms, will all be dedicated to research.

      "The mental health research program has probably quadrupled in the last nine years that I have been here, so they are on top of each other," said Rita Young, an associate staff member of research at VA Medical Center. "They have the new mental health clinical facilities in the front of the building. That is fine for the clinical, but we need space for the research and research therapies."

      The VA Medical Center currently serves thousands of local veterans and that number continues to grow every year.

      "We know that between eight and 18 percent of the returning soldiers have PTSD, so we are prepared to meet their demand and we need to continue to be prepared to meet that demand," said Adams.

      The Army Corps of Engineers is also involved in the project, but for Lt. Col. Ed Chamberlayne it's about more than the building.

      "I'm a veteran myself and we are very proud to help our veterans for what we have seen in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Chamberlayne. "(I'm) very excited to work alongside the VA for a desperate need."

      It will be a few years before the building is complete, but for those involved it's all about providing the best care possible for our nation's heroes right here in the Lowcountry.

      "My heart and soul is in the research and mental health investigators are a great team and they need space to work and the patients need the privacy," said Young.

      Construction is expected to begin later this month on the $9.9 million structure.

      The one-story building will be attached to the southwest corner of the medical center. The structure will allow for a five story expansion in the future.