University of Washington’s new behavioral health facility to increase workforce and access to inpatient psychiatric beds in Seattle

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Patients at the Behavioral Health Education Center on the University of Washington-Northwest Medical Center campus will look fresh on sunny decks and decks (at least during the sunny months), sleep in secure private rooms and will spend the afternoon in a therapeutic sensory environment. space out.

They will meet resident physicians and other trainees and medical staff in spacious treatment areas designed with education in mind.

New state-supported mental health education center is among several nationwide usher in a new era inpatient mental health treatment – treatment that uses intentional design to meet the therapeutic needs of people in long-term care. Many psychiatric hospitals have been redeveloped from buildings never intended to serve psychiatric patients; the large brick-walled Western State Hospital, for example, sits on the site of a historic military fort. The hospital lost its federal certification in 2018 and has been plagued with health and safety violations.

The new facility is currently under construction near the Northgate Shopping Center. Friday marked the inauguration of the building. Funded by $ 234 million in state credits, it will be operated by UW Medical Center-Northwest and is expected to open to residents in December 2023.

“When you walk in, it doesn’t look like a behavioral health facility,” said Charity Holmes, assistant administrator of behavioral health services at UW Medical Center. “It will be an open and welcoming environment.”

Unlike many other modern constructions, the new facility will serve the dual purpose of increasing bed capacity and the mental health workforce, which faces severe shortages statewide. Washington’s capacity of inpatient psychiatric beds ranked almost last nationally, with many being forced to endure long emergency department wait times or never receive a bed at all. And only 12% of Washington residents live in an area where they can expect their mental health needs to be met.

The approximately 184,000 square foot building will be located on a small area adjacent to the main hospital wing.


It is expected to rise to six floors, with patients residing on the upper floors. The facility will accommodate 150 beds, many of which will be dedicated to people with mental disorders who are civilly engaged, the elderly and those seeking voluntary treatment. The rest will be designated as medical / surgical beds for people with mental health issues that also require physical health treatment.

Large-scale terracotta tiles will flank the exterior structure of the building, providing a more contemporary look and feel that complements the existing brick buildings on the medical campus. Sage, soft yellows and other colors reflecting the natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest will create a calming environment in patient common spaces, said Carl Hampson, senior project designer and design director for the SRG Company. Partnership. The outdoor benches will be made from recovered trees; the reception desk will look like a fallen tree trunk.

On the first floor, visitors, students and UW staff will eat together in a public dining room. Massive art commissioned in public spaces and patients by a visual artist Hernan Paganini will serve, as he describes it, as a “second skin” to the interior walls of the building.

In Paganini’s initial concept art, as residents and visitors walk through the hallways, they will be able to touch giant faces and abstract shapes cast in white relief. Throughout the day, sunlight and shade will transform the look of Paganini’s artwork, which is inspired by ancient Egyptian relief sculpture.

“The work itself is going to produce (in) you some kind of emotional reaction,” said Paganini, who lives in Bremerton. “My general idea is to try to bring these people the experience (of being) alive. And to a small extent, these people can reconnect, little by little, to their bodies. “

Patient safety has been one of the top priorities in the planning process, Hampson said. In patient areas, for example, toilets, sinks, blinds and other accessories have been designed to prevent patients from injuring themselves.


The facility is expected to be equipped with a neuromodulation suite, where staff can treat patients using brain stimulation therapy. The consulting rooms will provide space for psychiatrists to conduct telehealth consultations with health care providers across the state; rural areas, in particular, face a significant shortage of mental health professionals.

Retaining and strengthening the mental health workforce is a challenge: wages are low, training programs are long, and the mental health system has a long history of mismanagement and underfunding. Washington psychiatrists earn tens of thousands of dollars less than some medical specialties, Office of labor statistics show; bus and transit workers earn more than many other behavioral health professions, including mental health counselors and social workers.

Creating conditions – both the physical environment and clinical standards – that motivate people to enter the mental health workforce is one way to improve retention and recruitment, said Dr Jürgen Unützer , professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UW School of Medicine, who has been involved in the planning of the facility since its inception. Those involved in the design of the new facility’s clinical services and training programs say it will set a high standard for interdisciplinary medical and behavioral health care.

A majority of UW’s 85 psychiatry residents will pass through the facility during their residency, said Dr Anna Ratzliff, director of UW’s psychiatry residency training program. Other interns, including those who are expected to become nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, will also have the opportunity to work side-by-side and collaborate on patient care and safety planning, she said. declared.

The goal, she said, is “to teach residents and other trainees what high quality care should look like, so that they really have that idea in mind when they go to hopefully. -le, in Washington State, and sometimes beyond, to practice. “


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