Stephen Holt, left, VA North Texas Health Care System director, Denton Mayor Chris Watts, center, and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, help cut a ribbon during a open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the VA Denton Mental Health Annex in Denton. Working alongside the Department of Veterans Affairs and United Way of Denton County, Burgess assisted with the opening of this new mental health clinic, which will help ensure that North Texas veterans can access quality care close to home.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Friday morning at the VA Denton Mental Health Annex, a new facility dedicated to mental health services for veterans.

The annex is located at 406 S. Carroll Blvd. next to the Denton County Veterans Center. United Way of Denton County President and CEO Gary Henderson said the process of opening the facility began years ago when a disconnect was identified between veterans’ needs and the capacity to serve them.

“We started to have conversations of what it would take to increase the footprint of mental health services,” Henderson said earlier this week. “Ultimately, the final solution came in the space that we’re going to dedicate [Friday].”

Henderson said the annex is a collaboration among many organizations and individuals, some of which include the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Denton County Veterans Coalition, United Way and Burgess, R-Pilot Point, who provided the project with “a champion at the congressional level.”

“Congressman Burgess was very engaged in making sure we understood from the private sector what needed to be there for the VA and for our veterans,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the primary benefit of the new facility, which was privately funded through donations, is that it allows for more space dedicated to mental health services in comparison to the existing Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Colorado Boulevard.

“Over in the community-based clinic there was about 400 square feet dedicated to mental health services,” Henderson said. “The immediate benefit is a growth from 400 square feet to over 2,000.”

Veterans still go first to the CBOC and are referred to the mental health annex as necessary, Henderson said.

Friday’s open house event featured tours of the annex and a ribbon-cutting by Burgess and others. Speakers included Denton Mayor Chris Watts, City Council member John Ryan, VA North Texas Health Care System director Stephen Holt and Burgess.

“This is a wonderful gift of the community to the community, and from the community, because it was volunteer hours that completed this project,” Watts said. “This place is transforming lives.”

Burgess read a letter from former President George W. Bush congratulating and thanking Denton for opening the facility.

“Laura and I are grateful to all who helped make this important place a reality,” the letter read.

Burgess said the process was challenging at times, but that setbacks were taken in stride.

“This facility took many hands to get here,” Burgess said. “This now is a template for other communities. There is an effort to replicate what the community here has done.”

JUSTIN GRASS can be reached via Twitter at @JustinGrass10.

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