SAN JOSE (KPIX) – A sparkling new building, under construction in the middle of San JosÃ©’s Little Saigon neighborhood, was designed to meet the health needs of Americans of Vietnamese descent, who make up 11% of the city’s population.
“Nothing like this exists anywhere in the country,” said Betty Duong, project manager for the new Vietnamese American service center on Senter Road.
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The center is tackling a disturbing trend first highlighted in a county survey ten years ago – many Vietnamese Americans were not receiving the health care offered by the county.
âWhat we found was that the language barriers were there, the cultural barriers were there,â Duong said.
More than 60 percent of Vietnamese Americans in South Bay polled over the years said they had limited English skills, and more than half were unaware the county provided health services.
The solution: the $ 65 million center that will bring together medical, dental, nutritional, mental health and more services, including child care.
âIt has to be a one-stop-shop,â Duong said.
People would say to him, âI don’t want to go to five different buildings for five different services, especially if I have children.
And to minimize the stigma of mental health counseling, everyone shows up at the same drop-in site.
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“You are basically camouflaged in the open air,” she added.
The 30,000 square foot center will also host cultural events.
The ten-year effort to build the center, led by supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, took into account community input on services and design.
âIt means a lot to me as an American of Vietnamese descent, as an architect,â said Thang Do, CEO of Aedis Architects, who designed the center.
He says the building reflects Vietnamese culture, while welcoming everyone.
âThey should feel a sense of pride that the community has a center beautiful enough to call it home,â Do said.
Among the highlights: a large letter V inside for the Viet people, images of rice cakes, bamboo edges at the window and drums retracing the history of the Vietnamese diaspora after the end of the war in 1975.
âThe ceiling (of the multi-purpose hall) is shaped like the Vietnamese conical hat,â Do said.
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The hope is that Americans of Vietnamese descent will be restored to good health, healing and a new meeting place when the center opens in October.