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Another reason for hope

September 1, 2008
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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The Lindner Center of HOPE examined every detail to create a welcoming and safe environment for people with mental illnesses

To say that Paul E. Keck, Jr., MD, and his staff at the new Lindner Center of HOPE have been busy would be quite an understatement. Last month they not only launched a private, nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization, offering outpatient, residential, and inpatient services, they also have been settling into their new $27 million home.

“The Center is really the vision and dream of Craig and Frances Lindner. It's our job to steward it and make it real,” says Dr. Keck, the Lindner Center's president and CEO. The Lindners, known for their philanthropy in the local community, have contributed $30 million to the new organization.

The Lindner Center is in Mason, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb that the organization notes is the second fastest-growing city in the Buckeye State. “It was clear that there is a [psychiatric] hospital bed shortage in the region,” Dr. Keck explains. “The shortage is especially notable in the area that we're in,” northeast of Cincinnati.

The 91,820-square-foot, 64-bed facility, constructed using 400 tons of steel, is located on 36 acres of an old horse farm (the barn is still standing), tucked away a half mile from the main road in a wooded setting. In response to the Lindners' request for a residential-style building with a lodge-like look, designers chose materials often used for private homes. For example, the building is covered with “cementitious” siding, a durable, water-resistant product popular in the residential market, explains John Westrup, senior project manager for the Lindner Center at Danis-Foxx Builders, LLC. In addition, the roof is covered with 65,000 square feet of asphalt shingles, which Westrup points out are more commonly found on private homes than commercial structures.

The Lindner Center's exterior also features what appears to be natural stone, but it's actually concrete colored and shaped to resemble masonry. Westrup says this synthetic stone is a more cost-effective alternative to traditional masonry. Where there isn't “stone” or siding, windows of various shapes and sizes let in plenty of natural light.

The Lindner Center is built into a swale, so the second floor is actually larger than the first. The main building spans a low area of the site and became known to the design team as the “bridge building,” crossing not only the swale but also providing a bridge between patients' treatment and their lives away from the center, explains Timothy M. Rommel, AIA, ACHA, OAA, principal in charge of planning at Cannon Design.

Also on the campus is a restored farmhouse that serves as the Lindner Center's administration building. The farm had been owned by the Gregory family, whose Montgomery Inn barbeque restaurants count U.S. presidents and celebrities (particularly the late Bob Hope) as fans.

What's inside

Patients and families arrive in a two-story, glass-enclosed lobby featuring a suspended copper leaf sculpture by Vermont artist Gordon Auchincloss. Directly off the lobby is the intake area. The Lindner Center can accommodate approximately 1,400 inpatient stays annually. Also on the first floor are psychiatric rehabilitation rooms, clinical administration and operations space, an auditorium/gymnasium, and the adolescent patient care unit, one of the Center's four patient care wings.

Rommel notes that the gym was designed to handle many different functions to avoid creating many single-use spaces. In addition to recreational activities such as basketball, the two-story room can be used for conferences, movies, and other events with seating to accommodate 198 people. Blue glass in some of the gym's interior and exterior windows provides an artistic touch.

Near the gym and the adjacent exercise room, outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, is the 16-bed adolescent unit, which has two eight-bedroom corridors directly visible from the unit's central nurses' station. In the bedrooms, angled walls prevent blind corners and allow staff a quick overview of both the bedroom and its private bathroom. Each room is designed so that a patient will not see another part of the building when looking out his/her room's windows.

“We didn't want people from the main building looking across at bedrooms, and we didn't want patients looking into other patients' bedrooms,” Rommel explains. A rectangular window near the ceiling lets in additional light above the room's built-in window seat. Nature-inspired motifs were painted on the walls in place of artwork, which was considered a potential safety hazard.

The patient room furniture was designed for high-use environments yet maintains a residential feel, says Becky van Leur, an account executive specializing in healthcare at office furniture dealer OstermanCron, Inc. Rooms are equipped with platform beds with headboards, desks with chairs, and wardrobe units, which the manufacturer custom designed to have a sloped top to eliminate the straight edge on the standard model, thereby providing more safety. The furniture, attached to the room so it is not movable, uses tamper-proof hardware and nonremovable drawers.

Much effort went into making the patients' private bathrooms safe spaces, as well. “We spent a lot of energy in trying to do that because the patient bedroom, and even more so the patient bathroom, is the most susceptible place for injury or suicide attempt,” notes Rommel, who has been involved with nearly 30 psychiatric hospital projects. For example, all of the toilet's piping and flush valve controls are in the wall. Only a button to flush the toilet is visible. Shower curtains are suspended using Velcro, not hooks. And more thought went into the toilet paper holders than you probably would expect.