Rehabbing Mental Health Facilities through Design and Construction

Jun 16, 2022 | Industry Trends, Insights

By Matt Valentine, Project Executive

There’s a movement within the healthcare market to build new mental health clinics and expand existing ones. Part of the why behind the growth is impact from the pandemic — most notably, about $3 billion from the America Rescue Plan Act was allotted for improvements and new developments for mental health facilities. But, based on what we’ve heard from clients, another main factor in the renovations and new construction is a desire to change the outlook on these types of facilities and remove any stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.

The U.S. behavioral market is projected to be about $99 billion by 2028. That’s up from just under $78 billion in 2021. Most of the growth we’re seeing now is larger systems building smaller, new clinics in populated areas similar to what systems have done with Freestanding Emergency Departments. The goal is to bring the care people need or may need closer to them, in more convenient and accessible locations.

In the past, behavioral health clinics and facilities have had, or been perceived as, cold and institutional environments. Healthcare clients are working with design partners and contractors to ensure new projects have more natural light, friendlier environments, and brighter features while ensuring patient and staff safety remains paramount. It’s a delicate balance, but one we’ve had success with on several mental health projects we’ve partnered on.

With mental health facilities, there is always an increased level of patient and staff safety built into projects that we don’t see with other types of healthcare construction. Healthcare providers and design teams are focusing on ensuring all the safety factors are there — anti-ligature features throughout patient areas, all furniture and equipment secured to the walls and floors, and access control doors between differing areas of the suites. All while including art, bright colors, and other comforting features throughout to avoid the facility looking harsh and intimidating. It’s a true balance of aesthetic and safety.

Another focus we’ve seen in renovation projects or new facilities is a focus on more targeted care by age group. Funds are being devoted to building specific pediatric, adolescent, and geriatric behavioral health spaces within facilities. This allows the doctors and staff to provide more focused care while creating more comfortable surroundings for patients.

About 1 in 5 people will experience mental health issues in their lifetime which might bring them to these facilities. Healthcare systems are using design and construction approaches to rehab mental health facilities and change any stigma that they are only a “worst case scenario” place for people to go. They are the same as any other specialized healthcare facility — and with new projects being planned consistently across the country, patients will hopefully find these facilities more accessible and accommodating.

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