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Georgia facility sets a new standard

February 1, 2010
by Lindsay Barba, Associate Editor
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Willowbrooke at Tanner presents a brand-new behavioral health hospital to meet the state's growing needs

The state of Georgia waited 20 years for a new behavioral health hospital, a wait that was rewarded with Willowbrooke at Tanner, a 52-bed facility serving pediatric, adult, and geriatric clients that opened in April 2009 and set a new standard for care.

Figure 1. Willowbrooke at Tanner, Villa Rica, GA

As part of Tanner Health System, the 50,000-square-foot Willowbrooke at Tanner facility, located in Villa Rica, averages more than 650 behavioral health assessments per month. Yet, despite this client traffic, it functions efficiently in terms of cost and staffing thanks to well-planned design led by Wayne Senfeld, the facility's administrator, Paula Gresham, the facility's assistant director, and Willowbrooke at Tanner staff.

In the early stages of the facility's development, Tanner benchmarked peer facilities nationwide and identified best practices. Then, it trusted staff to make the major design decisions. “The cornerstone of the decision was the depth, quality, and commitment level of the behavioral health staff,” says Tanner President and CEO Loy Howard. “They were really the lead-Wayne and his team.”

From the start, the design team sought to create a serene, natural aesthetic, free from any “institutional” feel. The aesthetic begins with a landscape design that combines the site's willow trees with colorful foliage, year ‘round. “There's always going to be some color out here,” says Senfeld, “whether it's fall foliage or flowers in the spring.” Clients can enjoy the environment in the facility's outdoor dining areas and courtyards.

Figure 2. Lobby/reception area

The natural aesthetic is carried directly into the lobby (figure 2), which was developed by Mark Camp and Kevin Sutton of Advantage Office Solutions' commercial interior design division. “We brought in botanical and leaf motifs and things that were very natural feeling,” says Camp. “We took our color cues from a palette of beiges, browns, greens, and blues and kept it very calming and serene-almost like a spa.”

The lobby also features a 20-foot glass waterfall, which is “kept at a nice, neutral flow all the time,” says Senfeld. Framed by large windows, he adds that the lobby and waterfall “create a soothing environment that I think is very helpful in terms of treatment.”

Figure 3. Centralized nurses' station

The layout of the nurses' station (figure 3) helps to maximize staff efficiency, functioning as the hub of Willowbrooke at Tanner's single-floor layout. From the station, the staff has a line of sight-directly or via security camera monitors-to every area of the facility. “You can be in the nurses' station and still be monitoring what's going on in a group room, the cafeteria, or the gymnasium,” Senfeld explains. “You're constantly aware of the feel and the security of the building.” Wall-mounted computers in the hallways support paperless charting and enable staff to stay closer to the clients.

In addition to line of sight monitoring, sensors in client beds and hallways, developed by KNINE TECHnologies of Douglasville, GA, notify staff if clients leave or fall from their beds, or if clients are walking the halls.

Staff worked with a mechanical engineering firm, Addison Smith Mechanical Contractor, Inc. of Carrolton, GA, to develop client rooms that seamlessly merge comfort with mandatory safety features, including:

  • Window blinds located inside two layers of shatter-proof Lexan glass, which are operated by a button inside the room;

  • Breakaway hangers and shower curtains that support maximum loads of 15 pounds;

  • Artwork mounted on foam-core board instead of traditional wood/glass frames;

  • Piano door hinges; and

  • Covered heating and air vents.

Figure 4. Pediatric client room

The seamless design of such features reflects the design team's determination to provide inviting, dignified surroundings. So, too, does the design of areas suited to pediatric, adult, and geriatric clients. Rooms in the pediatric wing (figure 4) are decorated with “kid-friendly patterns and colors to make it more of a fun area,” says Sutton. Large circles in the corridor flooring were “pulled into the room to continue a circular motif,” adds Camp, representing the full circle of treatment. Adult and geriatric wings, meanwhile, feature solid, contemporary colors that offer depth and richness and better reflect more mature tastes.

Figure 5. Client common area

Common areas ( figure 5) reflect similar thinking. For example, Camp and Sutton chose recliners and glider rockers for the geriatric common room. “These give a little more comfort to clients who are less likely to be up and mobile,” says Camp.