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Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center

Los Angeles, California

The Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT) Behavioral Health Center fills an urgent need in Los Angeles County by providing comprehensive care and support for people living with mental illness, substance use disorders and housing insecurity. Originally opened in the early 1970s as the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, the building had been vacant for over a decade before the Los Angeles County Department of Works initiated its redevelopment.

In just under 20 months, the design-build team of Bernards + HOK performed a gut rehab of the building, designing the building’s renovation even as construction was underway. The result is a new, state-of-the-art facility built far faster and for less cost than a comparable new building.

In creating the MRT, the county wanted to ensure no person is turned away or told to find help elsewhere. Five county departments—Health Services, Mental Health, Public Health, Probation, and Workforce Development, Aging & Community Development—contributed to the programming and design of the center. Clients visiting the center have access to outpatient and residential treatment for mental and behavioral health as well as workforce training and justice diversion services. A psychiatric urgent care on the facility’s main floor serves a critical need by providing patients with immediate treatment for mental illness.

Art and nature take center stage throughout the building and grounds with murals by local artists, wall graphics depicting regional scenery (such as beaches and mountains) and new park-like grounds and landscaping. Clinical areas in the renovated building feature warm color palettes and soothing residential-inspired furnishings.

A conference center and café, also on the first floor, are open to clients, staff and the general public. A peer resource center, staffed by people who have lived experiences with mental illness, provides drop-in visitors with empathetic concierge-like assistance for handling mental health, addiction and homelessness issues.

500,000 sq. ft. / 46,450 sq. m.
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