Reducing stigma and increasing access to mental health care in a repurposed office building
The demand for mental health services and resources has never been higher. Dense urban spaces in particular have a dearth of inpatient facilities, often where need is highest and most urgent. Decades ago, stigma surrounding behavioral health treatment placed centers in rural areas, away from the everyday life of a city.
The Strawberry Hill Behavioral Health Hospital with The University of Kansas Health System (TUKHS) converts a vacant government office building into a 48-bed inpatient hospital in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas. The facility not only provides much needed mental health services to an underserved area, but also brought a significant economic boost to the area with job creation, new retail spaces and more. The location elevates public awareness to mental health treatment, ultimately reducing stigma surrounding these illnesses.
Throughout the design process, emphasis was equally placed on creating a healing and therapeutic environment for patients and staff that took advantage of the four-story central atrium, access to daylight and nature and views toward the Kansas City, Mo. skyline and the Missouri River. The atrium also brought the outdoors inside, planter beds on each level and vertical green walls.
Flexibility was also a crucial component of this behavioral health hospital. As the number of patients fluctuates along with the needs of those patients, a space that could easily adapt to those changes was paramount. By creating three separate pods, or neighborhoods, within a single 24-bed unit, the pods can operate as one large unit, as two smaller units, or three smaller units by controlling a series of cross-corridor doors. This flexibility provides the care team with the ability to separate populations by gender, age, or diagnosis. Each unit neighborhood has a clinical team station that provides visibility to the neighborhood, along with a multi-purpose activity room. This allows each bed cluster to operate independently, as was done when the coronavirus outbreak started.
Since opening in October 2019, Shari Riley, Director of Nursing for Behavioral Health and Psychiatry and Clinical Project Manager for the Strawberry Hill Campus has revamped its entire treatment model because of the increased number of patient activity spaces and the building’s overall flexibility. There are now dedicated spaces to music and art therapy, giving patients more activities and therapy options to choose from and allowing for a more individualized approach to care. Ultimately, more individualized care will reduce the average length of stay for patients.