US HealthVest’s Lake Behavioral Hospital addresses shortage of mental health and addictions inpatient/outpatient services in Lake County, Illinois
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults suffers from mental illness, while only 43% of adults and 51% of youth get treatment. Worse, a USA Today report shows that only 10% of the 23 million Americans with addictions receive treatment.
Despite a population of 701,000, Lake County (Illinois’ northeasternmost and third-largest county) did not have a hospital wholly dedicated to helping those suffering from mental health disorders and addictions. That is no longer the case, thanks to US HealthVest—the behavioral healthcare organization has transformed a vacant medical office building in Waukegan into a 146-bed inpatient and outpatient acute care facility dedicated exclusively to mental health and addictions treatment. As the first facility of its kind in the region, Lake Behavioral Hospital offers specialized programs for those with disorders ranging from serious chronic mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, psychosis) to issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as substance abuse.
Evidence of the organization’s priority on staff and patient safety can be seen throughout the facility: a layout that enables the separation of populations (e.g., youth/adult, severe disorders/addictions), “ligature-resistant” room features to help prevent patient self-harm, and open views throughout the hospital.
The 88,000-square-foot hospital was designed by Legat Architects and built by Reed Construction in a speedy 16 and a half months at a cost of $24 million . . . minimal compared to other hospitals in the region.
“This project was challenged by an uncompromising budget and timeframe, and it demanded a high degree of technical expertise,” said US HealthVest Executive Vice President Miro Petrovic. “The end result responds to these challenges while striking the right balance between design creativity and our overall expectations.”
In 2017, the search for a suitable property brought US HealthVest to a vacant, 30-year-old medical office building on the former Vista Medical Center West campus, known locally as “the old St. Therese Hospital” from a previous manifestation. The only operating remnant of the 500,000-square-foot campus, located in the county seat of Waukegan, was the 46-bed psychiatric unit on one floor of a seven-story building.
“For decades, the campus was an anchor in the community,” said Casey Frankiewicz, Legat’s director of healthcare. “Many Waukeganites were born there and saw the need for a new mental health facility. Repurposing part of the campus not only provides a much-needed service, but also plants the seed for reviving other parts of the campus.”
However, for US HealthVest to succeed, its new hospital would have to make the old medical office building more than 50 percent larger: the design called for a 58,000-square-foot renovation and 30,000-square-foot expansion. The facility was gutted down to its concrete structure with only columns and floor slabs left intact. US HealthVest, which has completed similar projects throughout the country, provided the overall layout, which Legat modified based on site restrictions, building code, and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regulations.
“The new and much larger facility has allowed us to provide additional services to more people,” said Lake Behavioral Hospital CEO Cindy DeMarco. “Compared to the old facility, the new spaces are much more spread out so patients can move around in a calming environment full of light.”
Bright, Welcoming, and Safe
The ground floor of Lake Behavioral Hospital houses public lobbies, an outpatient center, cafeteria, kitchen, fitness center, offices, and treatment rooms. During nicer weather, patients can also use two outdoor recreation/ activity spaces enclosed by 12-feet-high wood fences.
Among DeMarco’s favorite enhancements are the kitchen and dining space, where patients sit together to enjoy a meal three times a day. She also said that the courtyards provide “an ability to go outside for fresh air, which adds a therapeutic component that is essential to recovery.”
Floors two through four have roughly the same layout: each floor has three inpatient suites, each of which features a larger dayroom surrounded by sleeping rooms. The individual suites ensure that those patients with different issues (e.g., addictions, risk of self-harm, adolescent, geriatric) are grouped accordingly.
Steve Blye, project designer at Legat, said, “To ensure that they are closely monitored, patients spend most of their time in the dayrooms. Therefore, we had to make sure the dayrooms were filled with natural daylight, welcoming, and above all, safe.”
The dayroom design responds with nature-inspired colors and large, shatterproof windows that create light-filled settings with strong outside views—several of the dayrooms display tall trees. Open nursing stations have high desks that patients cannot reach over so that staff can safely monitor dayroom activities. Positioned around the dayrooms are quiet activity areas and group rooms for therapy sessions.
According to DeMarco, the consult and quiet activity rooms have enabled the hospital to offer more group breakout scenarios, as well as more one-on-on sessions.
All sleeping rooms are “ligature resistant,” meaning they are designed to prevent mentally ill patients from looping or tying materials around objects. For example, bathroom doors within patient rooms are sloped and have continuous hinges, and there are no open spaces between handrails and the wall.
Patient rooms also limit the sharing of bathrooms to two patients . . . a big difference from the common use bathrooms in the previous facility.
Quick and Cost Effective
US HealthVest wanted to get the project completed and open for patients as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Legat completed the design, from the project kick-off meeting to completion of construction drawings, in a rapid four and a half months. Such an accomplishment is rarely achieved on healthcare projects, much less on new hospitals.
José Belardo, project manager, put the project’s speed in perspective: “The last major healthcare project I worked on at a previous firm was a two-story, 44,000-square-foot outpatient center. It was half as large as Lake Behavioral Hospital, and it took twice as long to design.”
To top it off, the Lake Behavioral Hospital final price tag came in under the $25 million budget. This is noteworthy, since recent large hospital construction projects of comparable scale in Chicagoland often exceed one hundred million dollars.
The “lean” design/construction strategies that Legat and Reed Construction applied contributed to the accelerated schedule and modest cost. For instance, the project employed key stakeholder decision makers (rather than large committee consensus) and fast-track design strategies. The team also used real-time cost modeling during design, efficient construction scheduling, and prefabrication of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components.
Strong Design that Respects Regulations
Belardo pointed out that “design of this type of facility is heavily regulated by federal and state guidelines.” This posed a key challenge during the early stages of design: how to give the building an impressive exterior appearance while respecting those guidelines? The answer came in the color and window groupings that designers used to make the façade more appealing.
“As you approach the building,” said Blye, “it looks like you’re seeing a variety of materials. In reality, it’s the same material—an economical fiber cement panel—in three different colors.”
Blye and team used faux wood panels to group the clustered dayroom windows when viewed from the outside. Also, darker frames group patient room windows to create a more formal appearance.
On the northeast side of the hospital, a metal canopy identifies the covered entry, which is framed by a stair tower and columns clad in faux wood.
Blye said, “When people turn the corner, they see a strong expression of the front door.”
A Change of Pace
Before discharge, Lake Behavioral Hospital patients have an opportunity to complete a survey regarding their experience in the facility. According to DeMarco, scores have increased by more than 15 percent in various areas thanks to the new hospital’s spaces.
She said, “Patients who have been with us in the old building and now in the new space have commented on how welcoming the space is, the attention to the details, and how the dining and outdoor areas provide a nice change of pace that helps with their treatments.”
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