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Letting the Light In: Designers Bring New Rays of Hope to Behavioral Health Facilities

By: Eagle, Amy | This article was originally published in Health Facilities Management.



The psychiatric medical unit at Mercy Health Saint Mary's, Grand Rapids, Mich., is serene and welcoming. Daylight fills the open floor plan, which is warmed by natural wood tones, and a large aquarium brightens one wall. "There's a lot of natural light, a lot of room to move about," says Carrie Mull, the unit's clinical services manager.


It's a marked difference from the previous location, which she describes as having been dark, institutional and crowded.


The new 28-bed unit was created by renovating a traditional racetrack design to fit the physical space with the hospital's model of care. Mull says, "You have to have the unit design integrated with the unit culture. I'm pretty passionate about saying that you can't have one without the other." Prior to the new design, she says the hospital's care team saw some improvement in patients after establishing a collaborative, non-paternalistic approach to treatment. "But then when we combined it with the unit design, that's when we really saw the outcomes soar," she says.


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