By Sharon Chin

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A sparkling new building, under construction in the middle of San Jose’s Little Saigon district, has been designed to serve the health care needs of the Vietnamese Americans, who represent 11 percent 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 addresses a troubling trend first brought to light in a county survey a decade ago — many Vietnamese Americans were not getting health care the county was offering.

“What we found is that the language barriers were there, the cultural barriers were there,” Duong said.

More than 60 percent of South Bay Vietnamese Americans surveyed over the years reported having limited English skills, and more than half didn’t know the county provided health services.

The solution: the $65 million dollar center that will bring together medical, dental, nutrition, mental health services and more including child care.

“This needs to be a one-stop shop location,” Duong said.

People would tell her — “I don’t want to go to five different buildings for five different services, especially if I have kids.”

And to minimize the stigma of mental health counseling, everyone checks in at the same reception site.

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“You’re basically camouflaged out in the open,” she added.

The 30,000 square-foot center will also host cultural events.

The decade-long effort to build the center, led by Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, took into account the community’s input on services and design.

“It means a lot to me as a Vietnamese American, as an architect,” said Thang Do, CEO of Aedis Architects, which designed the center.

He says the building reflects Vietnamese culture, while welcoming everyone.

“They should feel a sense of pride that the community has a pretty magnificent center to call it home,” Do said.

Among the highlights: A large letter V inside for the Viet people, images of rice patties, bamboo edges at the window, and drums tracing the history of Vietnamese diaspora after the war ended in 1975.

“The ceiling (of the multi-purpose room) is in the shape of the Vietnamese conical hat,” Do said.

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The hope is that Vietnamese Americans will find good health, healing, and a new hangout when the center opens in October.