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Virginia Pankey Authors Healthcare Design Article on Designing Behavioral Health Crisis Units

In addition to Pankey’s piece, the October 2022 issue of Healthcare Design Magazine features HOK’s April Wines as a “Rising Star” and highlights two HOK finalist submissions to its Breaking Through design competition.

Virginia Pankey, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, senior medical planner in HOK’s St. Louis studio, chairs the Facility Guideline Institute (FGI)’s behavioral health crisis unit (BHCU) topic group. In response to the growing mental health crisis, the group recently published a new white paper outlining the value and benefit BHCUs can offer in delivering behavioral and mental healthcare services. The report also provides details about planning and designing these facilities.

Pankey’s Healthcare Design article details the reasons driving the need for more BHCUs and summarizes key points from the FGI white paper that she coauthored. This article summarizes:

  • How to best introduce a BHCU into an existing facility to align with other services.
  • How to design and program spaces for effective treatment and improved patient outcomes.
  • How to assure BHCUs are safe for patients and staff.

Excerpted from Healthcare Design:

Today it’s estimated that one in seven people arriving at an emergency department (ED) is there for a behavioral health issue or underlying mental or substance-abuse condition.

Although behavioral health services have expanded, EDs are often the only option for patients experiencing acute behavioral crises such as profound psychosis, aggressive or agitated behavior, intoxication and/or suicidal tendencies. Unfortunately, many EDs lack appropriate treatment spaces for these patients. Most EDs either hold behavioral health patients for extended periods or transfer them to an inpatient bed—neither of which is ideal from an operational, financial, or treatment perspective.

Approximately 100 BHCUs are currently in use in the U.S. The reason more haven’t been built despite their advantages is due, in part, to unfamiliarity with the facility type and the lack of planning and design standards.

The FGI white paper offers a broad outline for planning and designing BHCUs. … In addition to design information, the FGI white paper offers multiple operational considerations regarding staff and patient safety and circulation.

Read Pankey’s Healthcare Design article.
Download FGI’s “Design of Behavioral Health Crisis Units” white paper.

Rising Star Autumn Wines

The Healthcare Design Rising Star awards honor professionals who have focused on healthcare design for fewer than 10 years but already possess the passion, determination and experience to drive change within the industry.

The 2022 class of Healthcare Design “Rising Stars” includes Autumn Wines, LEED GA, a medical planner in HOK’s Washington, D.C., studio.

Wines is currently on HOK’s design team for a pediatric inpatient tower. “My experience in child life services at a major pediatric medical center is being used in the earliest phases of design,” she said. “Part of my personal mission is to ensure the developmental and cognitive needs of children and adolescents are being served as the design develops.”

Read the Healthcare Design article on Wines.

Breaking Through Design Competition

Two HOK entries were among the semifinalists in Healthcare Design’s Breaking Through conceptual design competition. The competition identifies pressing needs in healthcare delivery and proposes creative solutions.

HOK’s first proposal was “Envisioning a New Model for Maternal Health for the U.S.” (above). With the highest maternal mortality rate of any wealthy nation in the world, the U.S. sees people die of pregnancy-related causes at double the rate of countries with similar income levels each year. The crisis disproportionately affects Black and Native American people as well as those living in rural areas. The team argues that current physician-centric care models are inadequate to address the crisis and looks to new economic, social, technological and physical models. Specifically, the concept calls for Community-Based Maternal Homes integrated within communities as well as Portable Health Clinics that might be located in existing community institutions, with both complemented by telehealth and outreach programs.

HOK’s second semifinalist proposal was “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” The team contends that an imaginary wall exists between patient and provider and is the result of cultural, experiential and clinical barriers than can inhibit the well-being of patients. The solution is to depart from standard design approaches and innovate a new experience. It consists of three main components: The Door, The Room and The Wall.

Read the Healthcare Design article including HOK’s submissions.


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