Mental Health Awareness Month: Building a Stronger Behavioral Health Community

This May, Mental Health Awareness Month is hitting a little bit differently. With the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent Stay at Home measures, many people who suffer from mental health illnesses are struggling. This time only magnifies what the healthcare community was already beginning to see, the need for more comprehensive mental health services.

In the last few years, we have seen a steady influx in the construction of behavioral health hospitals. We have completed multiple renovations of existing behavioral health facilities, but in early 2018, we broke ground on our first ever behavioral health hospital, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital. Subsequently, we recently completed the expansion of Lake Behavioral Hospital in Waukegan, and broke ground in March on the Hospital for Behavioral Health Medicine in Plainfield, Indiana. The uptick in construction shows a direct correlation to the immediate needs that many communities have to provide patients with the right type of mental health services.

A large problem many healthcare systems face is that a large amount of behavioral health patients are being treated within emergency departments or surgical medical facilities. These standard facilities are not equipped to provide the appropriate treatments, long-term inpatient care, or institute proper safety measures for these patients.

This sentiment is reiterated by Reed Construction’s Senior Superintendent, Chuck Knapp, who led the field coordination efforts on the Silver Oaks and Lake Behavioral projects. He says “It has been a unique experience working on these projects compared to a standard healthcare facility. The owners and architects have invested the time to design the interiors to be light and bright with a lot of windows, each paint color was picked for a specific reason which was all tied back to making the patient feel better.”

He goes on to say, “The largest difference between the construction of behavioral health hospitals and standard medical facilities are really based around a different type of patient safety which incorporates anti-ligature requirements, no blind corners, secure holding areas and egress points to name a few..” Grab bars that are found in restrooms or other common patient areas are installed with a plate welded to the backside to prevent the attachment of a ligature. The doors, frames and associated hardware are made to ensure that there are no ligature points. All of the interior drywall is high abuse board which is much stronger than typical drywall. These are the features that set behavioral health hospitals apart from standard facilities. They are designed with mental health patient safety as the top priority.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, which spans 90,000 square feet and is now one of the largest freestanding inpatient and outpatient mental health and addiction treatment hospitals in the country, security is also custom to its patient’s needs. It’s entrance and egress points and pathways are controlled by combination of staff and security system measures.

These measures lend toward the real goal of a targeted hospital for behavioral health, which is to provide a therapeutic environment for patients to thrive. There are shared amenity rooms, therapy spaces, communal dining areas, and indoor and outdoor recreational spaces for patients to enjoy.

When discussing his experience on these projects, Chuck Knapp said “The most satisfying aspect of building both Lake Behavioral and Silver Oaks hospitals has been knowing that once complete and occupied, these buildings will be providing services to most vulnerable portion of our society. It is very humbling to know that our buildings will help provide essential services to those who truly need it.”

Joe Kozlowski, V.P. Director of Project Management and Scott Pickands, Executive V.P. state, “We are very privileged to been given the opportunity to be part of the team on all of these great projects. Based on our past and current experience we can proudly say we are at the forefront of this specialty industry as a construction manager and general contractor.”

As our communities continue to navigate the uncertainty and pressures of COVID-19, coupled with everyday stressors, it is even more important to hone in on the services being provided in hospitals like Silver Oaks, Lake Behavioral and the Hospital for Behavioral Medicine. Mental Health Awareness Month may be a little bit different this year, but our commitment to provide patients with the services they need, through the construction of these hospitals, continues to be as strong as ever.