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Sneak peek: Plans revealed for $125M UTHealth psychiatric hospital in Houston

By Olivia Pulsinelli
Plans for a new $125 million mental health facility were revealed Jan. 11.

The project is a joint venture between the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission. As previously announced, the project will be called the UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health and will be built using state funds approved by the 2017 Texas Legislative Budget Board and Gov. Greg Abbott.

The UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health will be the first public mental health hospital built in Houston in more than 30 years, according to a Jan. 11 press release. Construction is expected to begin this summer, and Houston-based Vaughn Construction is serving as the construction manager-at-risk. Architectural firm Perkins+Will, which was founded in Chicago and has a Houston office, designed the facility.

The new facility will be at 5601 W. Leland Anderson St., adjacent to the UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center. Both will be managed and staffed by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, and the combined campus will be the largest academic psychiatric hospital in the country, per the release.

“With a strong focus on serving our community to alleviate suffering from major mental illnesses, as well as leveraging cutting-edge research and education around mental health, this integrated campus allows us to expand our efforts to conquer these conditions,” Dr. Jair Soares, the Pat R. Rutherford Jr. Chair In Psychiatry and executive director of the UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus, said in the release.

The new facility will consist of two buildings linked by a glazed bridge. It will house clinical units, support services, research and education spaces plus a therapy mall, activity room and communal dining facility with views into an internal courtyard. An external courtyard will connect to a large, tree-filled outdoor space, per the release.

Perkins+Will designed the internal spaces with lighting, acoustics and visual aspects intended to reduce agitation and encourage healing, per the release. For instance, natural daylight and evening darkness were taken into consideration for their impact on circadian rhythm responses that influence emotional and mental state, and the impact of noise levels on patients’ and staff members’ stress levels was another factor. A deep overhang above the door to the hospital will help patients transition to a calmer, quieter space, per the release, and the research/education area has its own entrance.

The spaces also are designed to be “naturally supportive of the appropriate and helpful interactions of patients with staff and with other patients,” per the release. That includes arranging units around a central living space to help patients feel comfortable and engaged. The hospital will contain 240 beds within 10 units, with the flexibility to adjust as needs for different types of units vary over time.

“As we developed this project, we paid a great deal of attention to the impact of the physical environment on patients,” Stephen Glazier, COO of UTHealth HCPC, who will also oversee the new hospital, said in the release. “Design that incorporates uncrowded spaces, natural light and access to the outdoors can contribute to better outcomes. The right design can also help patients gain a sense of control, which can be a critical factor contributing to their recovery.”

Houston Business Journal
Jan. 11, 2019


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