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Dept. of Veterans Affairs to build new $46.6M mental health clinic in Hato Rey

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will break ground later this year on what will be a new Mental Health and Recovery Center in Hato Rey, at a cost of $46.6 million. The facility is slated to open in November 2022, this media outlet confirmed.

The facility will be part of a mixed-use complex planned for the former Sears property, which until 2018 was part of the government’s real estate portfolio. The property was sold to Puerta de San Juan, LLC, which will in turn sell portions of the plot to third parties for different concepts, said Jacobo Ortiz-Blanes, who represents the developers.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will lease 51,831 square feet from San Juan Psychological Recovery and Rehabilitation LLC — the owners of that lot — for nearly $4.6 million a year for a 20-year term, for a total of $92 million over the life of the contract. The lease includes 177 parking spaces.

The new Mental Health and Recovery Center will complement services offered at the Veterans Hospital in San Juan through several programs:

  1. A Mental Health-Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Program consisting of 40 residential beds in lease space away from the medical center. The program is designed to function as a Long-term General Domiciliary program “for veterans to promote the development of new skills and attitudes needed to live independently in the community,” agency officials said. A three-pronged approach will be offered to residents focusing on treatment of physical and mental health care needs including substance abuse; training in community living skills; and vocational rehabilitation.
  2. A Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, which will provide community based, recovery oriented, skill building interventions and support for veterans with serious and persistent mental illness and/or substance abuse. 

The VA Caribbean Healthcare System serves veterans in the geographic area of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including close to 23,000 mental health patients. It is projected that the new clinic will serve about 700 veterans per year, which is about five times the number currently served, agency officials confirmed.

“The Mental Health-Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Program is expected to serve approximately 85% to 90% male population, but the program would be structured to accommodate women veterans as well and would ensure their privacy through private rooms and safety by around the clock staff supervision,” the agency stated.

“Discharge from the program is mutually determined by the veteran in treatment and the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center treatment team. Following successful discharge from the program, the veteran may participate in any element of the program on an as-needed basis in the future,” the agency added in response to questions from this media outlet.

The new residential services for veterans will enable to VA Caribbean Healthcare System to keep these patients in Puerto Rico, rather than refer them to other facilities in the U.S. mainland, “in many instances depriving our veterans from their family support and limiting their ability to profit fully from the services received due to cultural and language barriers,” agency officials said in a statement.

During the construction phase, the project will generate more than 250 direct and 500 indirect jobs. Once operational, the facility will create 95 permanent positions within the Veteran Affairs system, including, physicians, nurses, social workers, therapist, pharmacist, dietitians, and food service, security and administrative personnel. 

The new clinic will be part of a complex that will also include three elderly housing buildings, and two student housing structures.

“We substituted the middle-class housing aspect of the project with the clinic, which will be built first,” Ortiz-Blanes said. “When we purchased the lot from the government, we participated in the Veteran’s clinic bidding process. That was a project that had been pending since 2010.”

“We’re working on a master development plan to sell parts of the Hato Rey property to different developers so they can bring in their own ideas, while retaining a similar look and feel,” said Ortiz-Blanes, of the five-year vision for the property that has access to the Urban Train and is nestled between two main avenues in San Juan — Muñoz Rivera and Ponce de León.

The facility will be part of a mixed-use complex planned for the former Sears property, which until 2018 was part of the government’s real estate portfolio.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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