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Veterans to get new Lakewood home, years after quake

Post by Matt Misterek / The News Tribune on June 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
June 24, 2010 2:45 pm

Nearly a decade after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged the old building, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday will celebrate a new 83-bed residential center at the American Lake VA in Lakewood. It includes a hospice unit, a rehabilitation unit and an Alzheimer’s disease/dementia unit.

The new 79,000-square-foot lakeside Community Living Center also has a full-service kitchen/dining facility to serve the entire VA campus, plus a private dining area for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients, according to officials with the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

The 55 current residents will move in later this summer, after finishing touches are completed, a VA spokesman said.

Planners have included environmental-friendly technology and materials; soundproofing to filter the frequent noise of military aircraft; and a design intended to make the veterans’ surroundings more socially nurturing.

In a statement, center director Dr. Sharon Falzgraf said:

Breaking from the traditional nursing home concept of a hospital wing with standard nursing stations, the new American Lake Community Living Center is designed around one main street corridor with a series of branching neighborhoods. This reflects the emphasis on the social environment of care and is important to a patient’s well-being and ability to heal.

Among the dignitaries on hand for Friday’s ceremonial event will be U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. As a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the Washington Democrat helped secure $38 million to build the center, dealing with up-and-down committee-level negotiations dating back at least as far as 2006.

The American Lake VA opened in 1923, and the construction of a significant new building there represents a big turnaround from just seven years ago. The VA system in 2003 ordered a study into possibly closing the Lakewood facility and two others in Washington, which would have forced patients to travel to the Seattle VA hospital.

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