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Surrey’s $312M Legion Veterans Village first of its kind in Canada

‘We just made what people thought would be impossible, possible,’ says project lead Rowena Rizzotti
Surrey’s Legion Veterans Village. (Submitted photo)

Surrey’s Legion Veterans Village is unveiled.

Rowena Rizzotti, project lead, called its grand opening the culmination of eight years of “dedication, passion and fortitude” committed to the “betterment of how we serve our veterans, first responders and their families and the challenges they face as a result of their service.”

More than 400 dignitaries, including representatives from all levels of government, were invited Wednesday to tour the $312-million Legion Veterans Village project at 10626 City Parkway in Surrey’s downtown, to get a first-hand look at the Centre of Clinical Excellence for veterans, first responders and their families.

Rowena Rizzotti. (Submitted photo)

Rowena Rizzotti. (Submitted photo)

“The message is that we just made what people thought would be impossible, possible,” Rizzotti told the Now-Leader. “And this is just the beginning. The bricks and mortar of this building are just the beginning but how we are going to transform the health care and access to service for veterans and first responders and their family, that is the next phase of our work and our goal not only here in Surrey but across this country.”

The Village is at the corner of City Parkway and 106 Avenue. Developed by the BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, Whalley Legion Branch 229 and the Lark Group, it consists of a 20-storey building containing the new 10,500 square-foot Whalley Legion Branch 229, as well as 91 affordable housing units and 171 market housing units in the first phase of overall development, and of course, the Centre of Clinical Excellence operated by Veterans and First Responders Health.

“This will be the first of its kind, fully integrated continuum of care for veterans and first responders, and families, in their health and wellness needs. It will be the first of its kind in this country,” Rizzotti said before the big reveal. “Early intervention around some of the most innovative practices – therapeutics, interventions and technologies.”

The VFRH is an “integrated group” of family physicians, nurse practitioners and other care providers connected through Welmind – a “digital healthcare partner enabling streamlined, co-ordinated care.”

Through the Centre of Clinical Excellence, Actum Health provides specialists in “interdisciplinary, complex care” to help people dealing with chronic pain, mental health issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction while Neuromotion, a neurological physiotherapy and rehabilitation company, brings Lokomat robot-assisted gait therapy and XOmotion robotic legs to the Village to help people with neurological injuries “optimize their recovery” and learn how to walk again.

There is also comprehensive dental care available from City Parkway Dental. HealthTech Connex Brainnovation Network is dedicated to advancing clinical research into brain health, and training clinicians how to implement new treatment.

The busy Neuromotion Physiotherapy + Rehabilitation clinic, moved to the Village last week from a building on 96 Avenue.

The ground-floor facility helps people with neurological injuries, including Bruce Burns, who suffered a stroke two years ago. On Tuesday, the former Vancouver police officer rehabbed his left leg on the Lokomat treadmill, for gait training.

“It took me a year just to be able to stand up,” Burns said during his 50-minute session.

“We want to prevent another stroke by getting him walking again, and to create new pathways to the brain,” explained Franziska Jouanguy, Burns’ physiotherapist.

Neuromotion’s new clinic has private rooms, “which are nice because we deal with concussions, and those people need quiet space, and also brain injuries, for therapy,” said clinic manager Anne Shaw.

“A lot of our patients are long-term, been with us four or five years and more, and some of them will now live here in the building.”

Rizzotti said an intake process over the next weeks and months will see the “full commissioning” of all different spaces, clinical services and housing.

“We are all working in collaboration on a daily basis around coordinating that intake and defining those processes to make it seamless. A 1-800 number is coming, the website access is coming for both the housing and the clinical services,” she said.

Meantime, with the facilities now in place, the Legion Veterans Village Research Foundation is launching the first phase of its fundraising campaign to support clinical research, with a $10-million goal over five years and a $25-million goal over 10 years, to support access for patients into advanced and innovative programming.

“Not just here in Surrey, but across the country,” Rizzotti noted, “and enabling the research and evaluation so we can really influence how veterans and first-responders are cared for in the future.”

– With files by Tom Zillich

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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