Healing & Creativity at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center

In October 2010 the DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DC VAMC) contracted with STG International, Inc. to provide consulting services through the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) for the Community Living Center (CLC). During the contract period, NCCA assessed the existing Creative Arts Program along with the needs of the CLC and developed a strategic plan to align the goals of the Creative Arts Program with the CLC’s overarching priorities, VHA directives, and the Planetree model of person-centered care.  In October of 2011 the NCCA’s contract was extended and the Strategic Plan moved into the implementation plan stage. NCCA is now in its third year working at the VA and the second year of implementation.

The Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan focused on six goals;

  • To engage the CLC community in robust arts and healing programming.
  • To integrate story and ritual into CLC routines.
  • To enhance the CLC environment as a creative space.
  • To establish community connections in the Washington metropolitan region.
  • To care for the CLC caregivers.
  • To ensure sustainability of the Healing and Creativity Program.

As a part of the Strategic Plan the NCCA held three Staff Trainings focused on how to use arts and healing tools at the VA. 

The Implementation Plan

NCCA is now and has been since October 2011, focused on implementing several sustainable programs at the VA. NCCA has created a gallery space in three halls of the CLC and has successfully hung the first exhibiton of Veteran's art work. Elisabeth Larson has been brought in as a Senior Arts Consultant to engage the Veterans in robust arts and healing programming. Ms. Larson is leading several classes a week focused on visual arts, story, and drama. To integrate story and ritual into CLC routines, Liz Nichols, TimeSlips Trainer and Facilitator,  led a TimeSlips facilitator training for VA Staff in 2012 which led to the cerfifcation of several CLC staff and the DC VAMC as an institution.  NCCA is also actively assisting in a new program at the CLC to help orient and organize volunteers with in the CLC called the Capitol View Volunteer Corp as well as reaching out to local University arts programs to create internship opportunities for art students thus establishing community connections in the Washington metropolitan region. Planning is underway to assist other VA MC and outpatient clinics start, grow, and sustain vibrant healing and arts programs.