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Family Service & Guidance Center, Youth Development Center, TOPEKA, KANSAS

August 1, 2006
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In August 2004, the Family Service & Guidance Center (FSGC) opened a new Youth Development Center in response to a huge influx of clients that followed the closure of several other mental health facilities and a state mental health hospital in our community. The 44,000-square-foot facility (designed by William Sheahan Associates) centralizes two locations onto one spacious campus, giving children safe and comfortable surroundings where they participate in the array of services FSGC offers, including individual and family therapy, psychosocial programs, abuse treatment, and a variety of support groups.

The facility houses programs for children from ages 6 to 18, and it is located in a park-like setting next to a pond, where children can fish with their clinicians or just sit and relax while working through issues. Large, dramatic windows allow the beauty of the campus to be experienced while indoors.

The building has an oversized half-court gym where psychosocial groups play and work on controlling behaviors and appropriate responses in everyday situations. Individual clinicians also take children to the gym to shoot hoops and talk in a “less-intense” setting than an office.

The facility also includes 50 offices/therapy suites; 11 group therapy/psychoeducational group rooms; 2 large waiting areas that include toys and activity tables; a large, school-type commercial kitchen in which nutritious snacks and meals can be prepared; a cafeteria (capacity: 200) and service line; 2 conference rooms; 1 observation room; and centralized medical records storage.

During the design phase a number of features were important to FSGC. The building was designed to accommodate the property's existing trees to maintain the serene setting, and the campus was oriented to the natural landscape by featuring the pond. The exterior materials were chosen for their nonclinical appeal and to soften the presence of a large structure in a natural setting.

Durability was a primary concern in choosing materials for the building's interior because of the large number of children using the facility each day. Natural light was used to the greatest extent possible. Gathering areas were designed at the nexus of corridors to encourage interaction, orientation, and spontaneous activity. All partitions in the building are constructed to maintain privacy and confidentiality.

The building was constructed to accommodate future expansion, which is expected to occur later this year and will consolidate FSGC's services on one centralized campus.

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