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Transformation: The Department of Veteran Affairs Healing Environment Design Guideline

In this free webinar from the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, “Transformation: The Department of Veteran Affairs Healing Environment Design Guideline,” architect Paul Alt, AIA and psychologist Jim Munroe, Ed.D describe their work on the Department of Veteran Affairs Healing Environment Design Guideline (VAHEDG). This unprecedented criterion is being utilized for the design and construction of all VA Medical Centers, outpatient clinics, and long-term living facilities intended for the healing of the mind, body, and spirit of more than nine million veterans and their families. The facilities, created with input from consultants and subject matter experts, as well as veterans themselves, will be comprised of therapeutic environments, creating a "Mental Health Infrastructure" conducive to behavioral health and well-being for a patient's healing journey.

Paul Alt, AIA is an architect and founder of the architectural practice Alt Architecture and Research Associates (AA+RA) LLC in Chicago, Illinois.  The firm’s primary focus is the establishment of a collaborative of architects, veterans, and behavioral health researchers and healers in creating, “architecture as a communal tool for healing of the mind, body, and spirit of a veteran.” AA+RA was founded in the wake of a design project focusing on healing environments for PTSD and loss for schools in Chicago and the Bronx. These environments, planned with the help of students, teachers, and community members, were to be tools for healing, experiential education and community building. Based on these ideas, AA+RA utilizes the same vision of physical environments as a tool for healing in its work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Projects include the Healing Environment Design Guideline for VA facilities, the construction of the Veteran Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and consultation on the master plan for the Green Road Project at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a structured outdoor space focusing on the healing aspects of the natural environment.

James F. Munroe Ed. D. is a licensed psychologist who worked with the Boston VA Healthcare System for 35 years specializing in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in combat veterans, and is a Subject Matter Expert for the Healing Environment Design Guidelines for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has served as the Clinical Director of the Veterans Improvement Program, Director of the PTSD Outpatient Clinic and Site Training Director for the Psychology Internship program. He developed non-stigmatizing approaches with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to reduce stigma and improve access to VA services. He also worked with the American Red Cross for 15 years and served as the Co-Lead for the Disaster Mental Health Team and as a member of the National Red Cross Critical Response Team. He has been an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, and has authored numerous works on the effect of trauma on veterans and their families.