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A new plan for patients in crisis

July 1, 2009
by Carl Hampson, AIA, LEED AP and Jill Bergman, AIA, LEED AP, ACHA
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Two buildings will offer a place for patients in Southern Arizona to recover

The behavioral health pavilion will glow at dusk, with its public spaces partially veiled by the south-facing solar scrim
The Behavioral Health Pavilion will glow at dusk, with its public spaces partially veiled by the south-facing solar scrim. Renderings by Cannon Design.

The behavioral health pavilion's double-height lobby will be an internal extension of the outdoor forecourt, with a direct connection to the sky-garden on the second floor
The Behavioral Health Pavilion's double-height lobby will be an internal extension of the outdoor forecourt, with a direct connection to the sky-garden on the second floor.

The new Pima County Behavioral Health Pavilion and Crisis Response Center in Tucson, Arizona, is destined to change the practice of behavioral healthcare. The concept was to create an integrated facility to serve multiple facets of behavioral medicine and fulfill the master plan's vision for a holistic healing campus. The project, scheduled to break ground in August, will provide critical relief to the county's overcrowded emergency and inpatient psychiatric beds and juvenile and adult detention centers by providing multiple treatment options for individuals needing mental healthcare.

A full continuum of behavioral healthcare services will be available through acute and sub-acute inpatient care, outpatient clinics, and crisis assessment and stabilization for both youths and adults. A staffed call center, as well as specialized entry points for law enforcement, paramedics, and other first responders, will expedite patient admissions to appropriate areas for treatment. A courtroom will serve patients entering hospitalization through the legal system.

Integrated into the existing University Physicians Hospital Kino Campus, the facility will be composed of two functionally distinct buildings, the Crisis Response Center (CRC) and Behavioral Health Pavilion, that will operate in unison to respond to the broadest range of patient needs. The buildings will be organized around a shared service exterior courtyard that will provide secure circulation for medical staff, law enforcement officers, courtroom personnel, and patient and material transfers.

Internally, each building is organized into layered zones of patient and support spaces clustered around accessible outdoor courtyards and oriented along an east/west axis for optimal solar orientation. Dedicated user circulation systems mitigate conflicting traffic flows of patients, staff, and visitors.

The sky-garden on the second and third floors of the behavioral health pavilion will provide an outdoor shaded retreat for both visitors and staff
The sky-garden on the second and third floors of the Behavioral Health Pavilion will provide an outdoor shaded retreat for both visitors and staff. A normalized patient environment will be achieved through regional design references in both interior and exterior spaces. The buildings will share a distinct architectural vocabulary that relates to the often harsh-but equally inspiring-Southern Arizona landscape. Interior finishes in each patient unit and treatment area will have distinct themes, drawing inspiration from the desert Southwest to create a sense of community and identity. Rich earth-toned concrete block combined with warm metallic panels and screens will create a palette sympathetic to the existing campus and its environment while being sensitive to cost, durability, and performance. The buildings will be articulated to minimize heat gain and maximize views and access to the outdoors.

Carl hampson, aia, leed ap
Carl Hampson, AIA, LEED AP
The CRC will provide assessment, stabilization, and treatment to patients who do not require emergency or acute psychiatric care. This will fill a gap in coverage for patients who are often unnecessarily admitted to emergency departments or detention centers. As an outpatient entry, the CRC will support provider networks and law enforcement agencies with patients in crisis situations. For adults needing care beyond 23 hours, a 15-bed sub-acute inpatient unit will be available in the CRC building, a two-story structure that will be organized around a central courtyard to provide an internal oasis for visitors and staff as well as a spatial buffer between the adult and youth services.

The CRC concept was developed in collaboration with Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA), a regional behavioral health authority. According to Judy Johnson, CPSA deputy director and COO, “[T]he new facilities will help streamline the delivery of care for individuals in a behavioral health crisis by improving available treatment alternatives, quality of service, and coordination of care.”

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