LONG BEACH, Calif. – Top leaders with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made a Jan. 13 site visit to the Department of Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System medical complex to see the progress of two projects totaling $350 million.
Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general and chief of engineers, was joined by USACE Command Sgt. Maj. Patrickson Toussaint and Brig. Gen. Paul E. Owen, commander of the South Pacific Division, to see the progress of the new Community Living Center and separate mental health in-patient and out-patient facilities.
Hosting the visit and update was Col. Julie Balten, Los Angeles District commander, along with David Van Dorpe, deputy district engineer, and LA District program and project managers who were there to describe the work in finer detail.
“It was a great opportunity to highlight our partnership with the VA and our part in constructing medical facilities for them, as well as the great work being done at the Long Beach campus to build the in-patient and out-patient mental health facilities, as well as the Community Living Center,” Balten said.
Both of the two-story, 80,000-plus-square-foot mental health facilities are about 50 percent complete, while the three-story, 181,000-thousand-square-foot Community Living Center is almost a quarter complete, according to Monica Eichler, VA Long Beach project manager with the Los Angeles District.
The new Community Living Center is designed to facilitate medical care for veterans in need of additional support, particularly aging veterans, Eichler said. The CLC will be a 120-bed facility consisting of 10 patient units with 12 beds each.
“We’re proud to partner with the VA to provide our veterans with high-quality facilities where they can be treated and know they are being taken care of,” Balten said. “When you walk into an updated, quality facility, you can take pride in walking through those doors and feel like you’re going to get the best care possible. I feel like the VA has done a fantastic job of taking care of veterans, and I feel very proud that we get to partner with them.”
The single building that currently houses mental health services and the Community Living Center for VA Long Beach Healthcare System patients is scheduled for demolition after these replacement facilities are fully up and running, which Eichler said may take place as soon as 2024.
As with any project, the exact date is subject to changed based on external factors such as evolving medical requirements.
“Especially in the mental health facilities, there’s a lot of changing requirements, and so we’ve had to be flexible and change as we go,” Eichler said. “The contractor has worked well with us, especially with recent HVAC changes and getting long-lead items here quickly. Our relationship with the medical center and our partner, (the VA Office of Construction and Facilities Management), are excellent. We work really well together, and that helps a lot with the coordination, which is really important.”
As with any USACE project, safety is paramount; however, this is especially the case during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Balten praised the professionals with the Corps, VA and the contractors for making necessary adjustments, such wearing masks and socially distancing, while doing their work.
“During COVID especially, these are challenging times,” Balten said. “These folks in the construction projects are showing up every day because they need to in order to ensure high-quality projects get delivered on time and within budget. I’m really proud of the team and all they’re doing to stay safe, stay healthy and continue to deliver the program.”