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Tampa to get new veterans mental health clinic

The 144,000-square-foot facility will replace three existing VA clinics.
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Tampa.
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 29
Updated Mar. 29

A new mental health clinic for veterans is coming to Tampa.

The U.S. General Services Administration announced this week that it awarded a 20-year lease for a mental health clinic under the Tampa Veterans Affairs health care system, according to a release.

Located at Temple Terrace Highway and Davis Road, the clinic will replace three undersized VA clinics in the greater Tampa area into a new, 144,000-square-foot facility that will enhance and expand mental heath services for local veterans.

“Mental health is a top priority, and our new home for this critical service will provide an even better space for healing,” said David VanMeter, interim director of the Tampa VA health care system in a statement. “Consolidating and expanding our facilities to better serve veterans is the overall goal of our mission to modernize Tampa VA.”

At the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners in Tampa, demand has been growing in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. The clinic offers mental health services to post-9/11 veterans and their family members, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and active-duty servicemembers and their families.

“The pandemic shed a nice little light on mental health, but one of the things that I noticed that it did, is also normalize it,” said Karen Blanchette, clinic director.

In particular, she’s noticed an increase in the number of couples and families coming in together to address issues.

When they opened in late 2019, maybe 5 to 10 percent of patients came in as couples, with the rest as individuals, Blanchette said. Now it’s about 40 percent couples and families.

Anecdotally, couples are getting help for problems that existed before the pandemic, but may have been magnified in the past year, she added. Thanks to a greater normalization of mental health services and more information about it, it’s coming out now.

Construction on the new Tampa VA clinic will begin in Spring 2022 and last approximately 18 months. It replaces the Psychology Rehab and Recovery Center, Tampa Domiciliary and the Tampa Mental Health Clinic. The new agreement is expected to save an estimated $15 million over the lease term.

The U.S. General Services Administration announced a new Tampa VA Lakeland clinic last month, as well.