The demand for mental health services and resources has never been higher, yet they often can’t be found where they are needed the most. Dense urban spaces have a dearth of inpatient facilities, where a large number of people live and could easily access nearby care. But long-standing stigma surrounding behavioral health treatment led to mental health centers being placed in rural areas, away from population centers.
The Strawberry Hill Behavioral Health Hospital is a vacant government office building transformed 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, it initiated a significant economic boost to the area with job creation, new retail spaces and more. The location elevates public awareness of mental health treatment, ultimately reducing stigma and creating a much-needed community resource.
The community was included in the design process from the start. Residents, city officials and state organizations attended an open house, Q&A sessions, walk and talks downtown and construction tours. Locating the hospital in downtown allowed for a close connection to the University of Kansas Health System’s main campus, as well as the community it serves. Since opening, the area has seen a boost in new vitality and development, including a new grocery store.
Since opening, the area has seen a boost in new vitality and development, including a new grocery store.
Throughout the design process, emphasis was placed on creating a healing and therapeutic environment for patients and staff. The design takes advantage of the four-story central atrium, along with plenty of views toward the city skyline and the Missouri River. The atrium also brought the outdoors inside, with planter beds on each level and vertical green walls.
Flexibility was a crucial component as we renovated this building. Knowing that the number of patients fluctuates along with the needs of those patients, a hospital 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.
We know that a healthy diet is part of keeping ourselves healthy. My motto is: Mental health is health. And until we start thinking of mental health as being one component of our overall health care, we continue to silo things out in a very unhealthy way.Lauren Lucht Executive Director of Mental and Behavioral Health, The University of Kansas Health System