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VA opens Providence research center to improve care of vets

March 21, 2022 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A new research center that will focus on improving the care of veterans opened in Providence Monday.

The VA Providence Healthcare System marked the opening of the Capt. John H. Harwood Research Center.

The VA renovated the former Harwood U.S. Army Reserve Center so its research service in Providence could use it. The center for Army Reserve units was built in 1950, closed in 2006 and was transferred to the VA in 2012. Renovating the space and adding to it cost about $12.8 million, according to the VA.

The VA said the research aims to improve care for veterans challenged by aging, disease or disability. Lawrence Connell, the VA director in Providence, said they are doing “groundbreaking medical research,” in large part because of their partnership with Brown University.

Researchers in Providence are working on new interventions to reduce veteran suicide and substance abuse after hospitalization, and ways to reduce depression among elderly veterans living in community living centers. They’re also identifying risk factors for food insecurity among veterans, assessing for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia among homeless veterans and looking at how veterans respond to COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses.

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VA officials, members of the state’s congressional delegation and state and local officials attended the opening. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and Army veteran, said the work in this new state-of-the-art facility will help identify better health solutions and improve outcomes for veterans and their families.

“From better patient outcomes to systemic changes, we’re continually pushing to improve VA access and services for our veterans, and this new facility is a vital part of that mission,” he said in a statement Monday.

A groundbreaking was held in November 2019. The project involved adding 7,200 square feet of workspace, renovating nearly 23,000 square feet of existing building spaces and several site improvements. More than 100 VA employees will work there.

The center is named after a Rhode Island resident who was killed in action June 7, 1944, on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Harwood was 25 years old.