May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Mental Health Awareness Month is an annual observance that takes place every May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental health, mental illnesses, and the importance of mental wellness. The purpose of this month-long observance is to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues, promote understanding and empathy for those living with mental illnesses, and encourage people to seek help and support when needed.
As an engineering firm that designs behavioral facilities, F&T aims to promote mental health awareness and engineer infrastructure that supports the caregivers and patients. Here are some ways that the built environment contributes to mental health awareness:
Creating safe and therapeutic environments: Designing facilities that are safe, comfortable, and conducive to healing provides a supportive environment for individuals who are living with mental health conditions. This can help reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and support recovery.
Incorporating evidence-based design principles: Evidence-based design principles are based on research that shows how the physical environment can affect mental health and well-being. Incorporating these principles into the designs creates spaces that promote mental wellness and improves outcomes for patients.
Fostering community connections: Behavioral facilities are often places where individuals can come together to receive support and connect with others who are going through similar experiences. Designing facilities that foster community connections helps reduce social isolation and promote social support, which are important factors for improved mental health.
Behavioral health facilities are essential to promoting mental health awareness and supporting individuals who are living with mental health conditions. By creating safe and therapeutic environments, incorporating evidence-based design principles, fostering community connections, and raising awareness through education, firms like Fitzemeyer & Tocci can help improve outcomes for patients and contribute to overall society mental health. Our experience spans all behavioral health populations and type; from pediatric to geriatric, and from mental health counseling centers to forensic patient facilities.
Today we are highlighting some of our recent behavioral projects for Department of Veteran Affairs, Cambridge Health Alliance, McLean Hospital, Southern Maine Health Care, and Holyoke Medical Center.
Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Medical Center Providence, New Mental Health Building, Phase 1
F&T provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and life safety engineering for the construction of a new outpatient mental health building for the VA Medical Center in Providence, RI. The 15,000-square-foot building focused solely on mental health offers resources for veterans to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and grief. The new state-of-the-art facility is designed to accommodate 300 patients to meet the current and near-future needs of the Providence VAMC's Veterans and the building is designed for a phase 2 expansion in the future that would nearly double its capability.
Cambridge Health Alliance, Somerville Hospital, Behavioral - 2nd, 5th, and 6th Floor Renovations
F&T provided full MEP/FP design and construction administration for the Somerville Hospital to re-open as a Behavioral Health facility owned my Cambridge Health Alliance and funded by the State of MA. This project was fast-tracked, which opened one (20) bed unit and (4) 12 bed units within 12 months. The project included the conversions of office and vacant spaces into patient rooms, activity space, dining, multi-purpose rooms, staff rooms, consult rooms, offices, reception, and support spaces.
Holyoke Medical Center, 1st & 3rd Floor Behavioral Health Conversions
F&T provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering for the renovation of 21,100 sf at the Holyoke Medical Center, consisting of the renovation of two areas. The 1st floor of the south building was renovated to provide a temporary adult behavioral wing, while the 3rd floor of the Memorial Building was renovated into a permanent pediatrics behavioral wing including patient rooms, staff areas, nurse stations, restrooms, and other support spaces. The new 3rd Floor behavioral wing required completely new MEP/FP infrastructure to support the wing as a permanent installation.
Maine Health, Southern Maine Health Care, New Behavioral Unit
Fitzemeyer & Tocci is providing full MEP/FP engineering and construction administration services for the design and construction of a new behavioral health unit at Southern Maine Health Care’s Sanford campus. Due to an increase in behavioral health cases and lack of short-stay beds, SMHC is constructing the new short-stay behavioral health care unit, which can accommodate up to 42 patients in a mix of private and semi-private rooms. This project is expected to generate more than 50 new jobs and provide critically needed bed capacity for York County patients who are experiencing short-term crises. The Sanford campus was selected for the new behavioral unit because, in addition to meeting the geographic needs for the behavioral program, there were two vacant floors available in a wing of the hospital. Although the general footprint fit the proposed program, the 1960’s-designed building had some shortcomings. Limited floor-to-floor height, primarily masonry wall construction, and scattered/unorganized utility services between floors were a challenge. F&T is employing an active chilled beam system as the primary HVAC system. With custom ligature-resistant covering and hardware, this solution provides a flush ceiling assembly while minimizing size of terminal equipment and ductwork above the ceiling.
In the initial infrastructure evaluation, F&T identified some of the facility’s primary HVAC systems needed upgrades. F&T’s infrastructure specialist team paralleled the behavioral project team and designed upgrades to the facility’s boiler plant and primary chiller equipment. With some advanced planning, the construction team was able to clear some abandoned equipment off the roof and clean up some deferred maintenance in the portion of the facility that had been vacant.