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Major renovations abound for 50-year old facility

September 13, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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For one of Ohio’s six regional psychiatric hospitals, Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare, major changes are on the horizon. A $68.5 million construction project in Sagamore Hills, which began with a groundbreaking ceremony in July, will expand the hospital by more than 100,000 square feet and improve existing facilities.

The psychiatric facility was founded in 1941 and was originally called Hawthornden State Hospital. It became Northcoast Behavioral Center in the 1990s. David Colletti, CEO of Northcoast Behavioral Services, says the features of the new improvements will benefit patients, family members, staff, and the surrounding communities. The main features include:

  • An addition of 10 residential wings, with eight new and two renovated from existing space. The eight new wings will house 208 patient beds, while the renovated spaces will hold 50 beds, accounting for a total of 258 patient beds.
  • A majority of private patient rooms and bathrooms which will “allow for more privacy for patients and will be more conducive to overall treatment,” according to Colletti.
  • Three new outdoor courtyards which will allow individuals to spend time outside and get fresh air.
  • Improved program space, which Colletti says will be “conducive to our art therapy, occupational therapy, our fitness programs, our music therapy, etc.”
  • Safety features that prohibit barricading of doors. He explains that many of the features in the previous facility were eliminated in the plans for this renovation. Much investigation was done through various literature and visits to other hospitals.
  • A clinic area that will integrate primary health and mental health. Colletti explains that specialists often come to the facility to provide medical services such as dental work and podiatry and that they will now have a space to be able to more efficiently provide assessment and treatment to patients.
  • Connected buildings, which allow much more efficiency in terms of staff and patient movement.
  • An exercise/gym area where patients will be able to regularly participate in programs and exercise. It is anticipated that this area will be shared occasionally with the community.

William M. Denihan, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County, says, “I want to commend the state for designing rooms that are more effective than rooms have been in the past. Not only did they architecturally achieve efficiency but they achieved consumer safety and the safety of the workers that are there. It’s also very environmentally sensitive in its construction using recycled materials. It achieves safety and security for the consumer which is the number one goal besides having a place for them to stay and be treated.”

Location, location, location

Although Denihan is pleased with the facility itself, he doesn’t agree with the location of the construction. More than six years ago, the ADAMHS Board reached out to the state with a proposal to build a new hospital in Cleveland, about 10 miles north of the Northcoast site. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration prepared a shovel-ready site downtown at a cost of about $5 million, but the downtown hospital project was cancelled by Ohio’s newly elected governor John Kasich., who decided to renovate and expand the existing Northcoast facility in Summit County at a savings of about $20 million.

While Denihan understands these savings, those aren’t the point, he says. At the time of the discussion for the building plans, he says the majority of individuals who were being served in the Cleveland hospital were from Cleveland. The beds were and are needed in the city, he maintains.

As a former police chief for Cleveland, Denihan says that the Northcoast site forces local deputies to spend “an extraordinary amount of money and time” transporting patients to the hospital. While it might take them 20 minutes to transport an individual to a Cleveland-based hospital, it now takes an hour and a half to transport individuals into a car and drive out to the Northcoast campus. The site is less accessible for urban patients and families, too, he says, and it is not served by public transportation.

Smooth operations during renovation

Because the current facility is under renovation, Colletti says it’s important to keep daily operations running as close to normal as possible. “The key here, similar to other leadership responsibilities, is good sound communication and an activity plan by leadership,” he explains.

It’s important to regularly engage patients, family, staff and others and keep them informed on what is happening. He shares that it’s a good idea to plan out and anticipate any kind of disruption so those things can be communicated in advance.

After one phase of the renovation/disruption is complete, his team reviews the action and evaluates how well it worked so they all can learn from it and make an alternative plan for next time if need be.

“You can get a lot of really different valuable input from different disciplines— doctors, nurses, assistant nurses, family members and certainly our patients – who know from day-to-day what’s happening and how this might impact them. This is the real key thing here. Top leadership needs to be present,” Colletti explains.

The renovated Northcoast campus on 71 acres owned by the state will house a facility to serve Northeast Ohio counties of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Summit.

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