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Inpatient facilities reflect specialized needs

March 6, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Click to view photos from these three facilities

Although individuals and businesses in the United States have been tightening their belts in recent years due to economic uncertainty, the construction and renovation of new behavioral health facilities and units has continued forward and may now be accelerating further. 

Jim Hunt, AIA, NCARB, president of Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC (Topeka, Kansas), says that facility-related activity seemed to slow somewhat in mid- to late 2012, likely because anxious executives and boards held back on spending until they knew for certain the results and implications of the tumultuous 2012 election.

However, since the first of the year, he reports that requests for design related services have increased significantly.  This comes as no surprise given the long-predicted surge of new behavioral health consumers that are expected to enter the market for services starting in 2014, due to health reforms that expand the availability of health insurance to nearly all Americans.

Among the many behavioral health facility projects or renovations completed recently are these:

Renovation: Amplatz Children’s Hospital

On Nov. 1, 2012, the newly renovated Pediatric Behavioral Inpatient Unit in Fairview’s University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital (Minneapolis, Minn.) opened to patients.  The renovation, which involved two floors of the building, cost $8 million and required a year to complete.

The design of the new unit, which serves patients aged 4-18, is characterized by abundant daylight, gently curving walls, and soothing colors (Figures 1 and 2).  Within each patient room, furnishings, such as desks, are adapted to a “child-size” scale.  Patients who require longer stays will appreciate common areas where they can play video games, exercise, or practice yoga, and a renovated swimming pool.

Unique design features include:

·        Rooms with colored lights around the ceiling that patients can change themselves, as well as in-room speakers and a choice of musical selections.  

·        A private "porch" outside each room, consisting of a permanent stool just outside the door where patients who need or want quiet time can sit and de-escalate while still feeling like part of ongoing activities.

·        A new “welcoming area,” used for patient check-ins, family visits, or family consultations. 


Thisproject, which involved acute pediatric inpatient units on the sixth and seventh floors, created two 20-bed units and a new 12-bed Intensive Treatment Center (similar to an ICU for behavioral patients) on the seventh floor.  (Contractor: RJM; Architect: BWBR)

Renovation: St. Luke’s University Hospital

St. Luke’s University Hospital (Bethlehem, Pa.) renovated a former medical/surgical unit into a new geriatric behavioral health unit.  Previously, all age groups were treated together in a single psychiatric unit on the seventh floor of the building.  The renovation was made because staff felt that geriatric patients should have a private floor specially built to accommodate the unique needs of older adults.

The new unit, which serves people aged 60 and over, opened in February.  It is comprised of 15 single-occupancy rooms (Figure 3), which incorporate anti-ligature hardware and furnishings to minimize the risk of self-harm or patient suicide attempts.

The unit features a multi-purpose area that accommodates dining as well as group therapies and activity sessions, family visits, and social gatherings (Figure 4).  Nearby are a “quiet” activity room, a visitor room and a consult room.  The color scheme reflects a restful, comfortable mood.

 “The bottom line is, with patients who are potentially staying for an extended time, to have a place that feels more like a home, has people in the same age-range and feels comfortable, all while still being appropriate for the medical usage,” says project manager Zachary Appleby.  (Contractor: Boyle Construction Management; Architect: Spillman Farmer Architects)

Regions Hospital Mental Health Building

In December 2012, HealthPartners Regions Hospital (St. Paul, Minn.) opened a new eight-story mental health building (Figure 5).  The $36 million building replaced an existing patient mental health facility and was the largest private investment in mental health care, to date, in state history. 

The new building is nearly twice the size of the previous facility, with 100 private patient rooms (Figure 6) and a design option to add 20 rooms in the future. The details of the new facility are designed to support a new, patient-centered care model that was developed collaboratively between staff, former patients, and families.

Building features include a spacious new activity room where patients can participate in individual or group exercises and activities, as well as a front porch where they can relax and enjoy the outdoors. Inside, a new resource center provides a space where patients and family members can learn more about mental illnesses and get connected with resources.  (Contractor: Kraus-Anderson; Architect: BWBR)