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Converting Medical/Surgical Units for Safe Use by Psychiatric Patients

By: James M.Hunt, AIA,NCARB and David M. Sine, ARM, CSP, CPHRM


Mental disorders are not uncommon in the United States: an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in four adults—suffer from a diagnosable behavioral health disorder in a given year, and 8 percent of all emergency department visits (including both self-presentation and emergency medical services transports) are related to behavioral health. To treat these disorders, many medical centers consider opening a unit to treat mentally ill patients. Nearly every behavioral health unit administrator, architect, or facility engineer has at one time heard a proposal to "take underutilized or empty bed space on 3–West and open up as a psych unit. We won’t have to do much to the unit, just change the sign and spiff it up a little."


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