The need for more behavioral health services in our country can no longer be ignored. As demand for treatment continues to increase, patients and healthcare providers alike are desperate for real solutions.

“Luckily society and the healthcare system are starting to come around to understanding behavioral health is in crisis in this country,” says Petra President Craig Beam. “And Petra is ready, willing, and able to respond as our own clients respond to serve these unaddressed healthcare needs.”

As development of behavioral health facilities begins to take priority, Petra is responding to the change by incorporating behavioral health needs into hospitals, helping clients with both ambulatory and inpatient solutions.

Behavioral Health: The Situation

Behavioral health is demanding a wake-up call. U.S. deaths of despair — due to alcohol and drug poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis — have been steadily rising since the millennium and have reached an all-time high. Opioid deaths have skyrocketed, with impact on multiple generations of Americans, from teens to seniors, that’s been declared epidemic. And weekends pose a particular burden on ERs who often times see a significant increase in psychiatric volume that leads to boarding of these patients in the emergency department— it’s a treatment model that’s just not working.

The answer? We need better. Better treatment availability. Better treatment options. Better treatment facilities.

A Behavioral Health Facility Partnership

Petra’s Jerry McPhail, Vice President of Operations, and Laura Lee, Interior Design and FF&E Project Manager, are working to help one client make expanded behavioral health services fit into an existing hospital. A new Texas Tech University and Covenent Children’s Hospital partnership was created to best solve the increasing behavioral healthcare needs of the region’s pediatric population, and Petra is tasked with making their vision a reality.

As part of an overall expansion and renovation plan for the hospital, behavioral health became a key component of the strategy. Texas Tech and Covenant Children’s Hospital were working together to solve how to serve its region’s pediatric patients with critical behavioral health services, and the hospital had the actual space to make it a reality.

The master plan for the hospital needed to be adjusted to create both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health components within an available footprint. Luckily flexibility for future function had already been built into the master plan, so Petra’s focus became transforming that space to work for behavioral health — after shifting and reallocating some additional spaces within the hospital to ensure the new area was appropriately sized and located for the new purpose.

The intent of leadership was to incorporate behavioral health into the main hospital, so children would still be going to the same hospital as other sick kids — and thus would not be stigmatized by being singled out. Additionally, the space needed to be welcoming and comforting to the children who will be treated there. And safety was of the utmost importance. Petra was up to the challenge.

“We are a patient- and client-focused company, and we genuinely care about creating the right space to achieve the results our clients need,” said Lee. “Behavioral health is not new, but as needs have evolved, physical spaces have to change to adapt. Petra is always focused on being on the forefront of healthcare trends and changes so we can best help our clients keep up with and stay ahead of those changes, so together we can adapt their physical environments to meet the needs of their patients. This project is a perfect example of that.”

Behavioral health has distinct design requirements, including everything from the welcoming environment, to an efficient triage space, to patient flow, to furniture placement and types, to room set-up, and even to controlling lighting levels and music. Unobtrusive observation spaces needed to be included in the therapy rooms, and bed placement could not be in corners so patients won’t have the anxiety of feeling trapped. Additionally, patient and caregiver safety are a real concern, and space planning plays a role in that. The Petra plan includes “on stage” areas for caregivers to interact with patients and “off stage” areas where they can safely retreat for breaks. It’s all about balancing actual mental and physical safety of both patients and caregivers with the perception by patients of how that safety is achieved.

“Our clients were creative in solving the problem of the unmet behavioral health needs in their region — a need so great they knew they could fill whatever space they created,” said McPhail. “We’re committed to applying our expertise and our own problem-solving skills to adapt and help them achieve their vision by creating space around the service model that’s efficient, and functional — and works — and that allows them to effectively serve the greatest number of patients they can.”

At the end of the day, Petra is doing more than transforming a hospital space, they’re helping their client transform the health of their community — for the better.

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