Staunton is home to a massive construction project you've probably never seen. In the rolling hills on the north side of town, contractors are building the new Western State Hospital at a cost of $125 million.
With the 350,000 square-foot hospital now about halfway complete, staffers can finally start to understand how it all comes together.
"I see where the hospital will be, the type of things we'll be doing and where they'll be located," said Director of Rehabilitative Services Jim Stevens. "You really get a sense of it now. It's pretty impressive."
Since the current Western State was built 60 years ago, mental health treatment has greatly evolved, and far fewer people are institutionalized. The result is a sprawling, 300-acre campus with half its buildings unused. So the state-run hospital is not only getting more modern; it's downsizing as well.
"That closeness will help us with a lot of security issues," said Stevens. "We'll have obviously better technology in the new hospital for things for staff and for patients."
"The building has a lot of thought put into it and how it's laid out," said Ben Alexander, project director for Balfour-Beatty Construction. "Each nurse station has really good visual lines down each of the corridors, so that we don't have to rely so much on the technology."
Each of the 247 rooms has a private bathroom, and every ward has a courtyard for clients and staff members. Throughout the project, in fact, Western State employees have acted as consultants.
"They'll have floor plans of the new hospital up on the walls where you can see the staff has really given input to how the spaces are laid out, how they're going to function," said Alexander.
While some parts of the building are ready for drywall, others are just going under roof. But contractors say they are on schedule to open in mid-2013.
"We give tours every Monday to the staff and they love it when they come in," Alexander said. "They're just in love with the new facility, and we're proud to give it to them."