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Georgia facility sets a new standard: Willowbrooke at Tanner presents a brand-new behavioral health hospital to meet the state's growing needs.

The state of Georgia waited 20 years for a new behavioral health hospital, a wait that was rewarded with Willowbrooke at Tanner, a 52-bed facility serving pediatric, adult, and geriatric clients that opened in April 2009 and set a new standard for care.

As part of Tanner Health System, the 50,000-square-foot Willowbrooke at Tanner facility, located in Villa Rica, averages more than 650 behavioral health assessments per month. Yet, despite this client traffic, it functions efficiently in terms of cost and staffing thanks to well-planned design led by Wayne Senfeld, the facility's administrator, Paula Gresham, the facility's assistant director, and Willowbrooke at Tanner staff.


In the early stages of the facility's development, Tanner benchmarked peer facilities nationwide and identified best practices. Then, it trusted staff to make the major design decisions. "The cornerstone of the decision was the depth, quality, and commitment level of the behavioral health staff," says Tanner President and CEO Loy Howard. "They were really the lead--Wayne and his team."

From the start, the design team sought to create a serene, natural aesthetic, free from any "institutional" feel. The aesthetic begins with a landscape design that combines the site's willow trees with colorful foliage, year 'round. "There's always going to be some color out here," says Senfeld, "whether it's fall foliage or flowers in the spring." Clients can enjoy the environment in the facility's outdoor dining areas and courtyards.

The natural aesthetic is carried directly into the lobby (figure 2), which was developed by Mark Camp and Kevin Sutton of Advantage Office Solutions' commercial interior design division. "We brought in botanical and leaf motifs and things that were very natural feeling," says Camp. "We took our color cues from a palette of beiges, browns, greens, and blues and kept it very calming and serene--almost like a spa."


The lobby also features a 20-foot glass waterfall, which is "kept at a nice, neutral flow all the time," says Senfeld. Framed by large windows, he adds that the lobby and waterfall "create a soothing environment that I think is very helpful in terms of treatment."

The layout of the nurses' station (figure 3) helps to maximize staff efficiency, functioning as the hub of Willowbrooke at Tanner's single-floor layout. From the station, the staff has a line of sight--directly or via security camera monitors--to every area of the facility. "You can be in the nurses' station and still be monitoring what's going on in a group room, the cafeteria, or the gymnasium," Senfeld explains. "You're constantly aware of the feel and the security of the building." Wall-mounted computers in the hallways support paperless charting and enable staff to stay closer to the clients.


In addition to line of sight monitoring, sensors in client beds and hallways, developed by KNINE TECHnologies of Douglasville, GA, notify staff if clients leave or fall from their beds, or if clients are walking the halls.

Staff worked with a mechanical engineering firm, Addison Smith Mechanical Contractor, Inc. of Carrolton, GA, to develop client rooms that seamlessly merge comfort with mandatory safety features, including:

* Window blinds located inside two layers of shatter-proof Lexan glass, which are operated by a button inside the room;

* Breakaway hangers and shower curtains that support maximum loads of 15 pounds;

* Artwork mounted on foam-core board instead of traditional wood/glass frames;

* Piano door hinges; and

* Covered heating and air vents.

The seamless design of such features reflects the design team's determination to provide inviting, dignified surroundings. So, too, does the design of areas suited to pediatric, adult, and geriatric clients. Rooms in the pediatric wing (figure 4) are decorated with "kid-friendly patterns and colors to make it more of a fun area," says Sutton. Large circles in the corridor flooring were "pulled into the room to continue a circular motif," adds Camp, representing the full circle of treatment. Adult and geriatric wings, meanwhile, feature solid, contemporary colors that offer depth and richness and better reflect more mature tastes.


Common areas (figure 5) reflect similar thinking. For example, Camp and Sutton chose recliners and glider rockers for the geriatric common room. "These give a little more comfort to clients who are less likely to be up and mobile," says Camp.


Senfeld points out another client-focused feature: two flat-screen television sets in each common area. "It has really bothered me over my career to go into a common area and see the patients huddled around a 19-inch television on the floor. They all have to watch the same thing. It's dehumanizing in a lot of ways," he says. Multiple TVs, with DVD players located in the nurses' station, offer clients a choice of what they would like to watch.

Camp and Sutton selected furniture and materials that were pleasing to the eye, but easy to maintain. They chose vinyl-covered, componentized chairs that enable repair or replacement of damaged parts, rather than the whole chair. "We used chairs to create seating and conversational groups. All three [common] areas also have tables," says Camp.

The facility's most important treatment area, the expressive therapy room (figure 6), continues the design team's balance of durability and physical appeal. "When you're dealing with mental health and emotional disturbance, there is a tremendous amount of energy, and that energy is often released in group and expressive therapy," Senfeld says. "Expressive therapy rooms get a lot of use, so we incorporated elements that are easier to maintain." Marlite--a rough, plastic like material--lines the lower walls to resist marks and dents and maintain the look of the room, where clients go to explore their feelings through drama, art, and music.


Another high-activity area is the gymnasium (figure 7), which includes a rock-climbing wall. "Clients need some downtime to go run around or shoot a basketball. So having that gymnasium has been really helpful," says Senfeld, who adds that local schools assisted in fundraising for the climbing wall by collecting $5,000 in nickels and dimes.


Clients aren't the only ones to benefit from Willowbrooke at Tanner's amenities. The site hosts continuing education courses for its 100 employees in the classroom (figure 8). Because it is "nearly impossible" to afford sending so many staff" off-site for required licensure training, Senfeld explains that "we offer about 50 hours per year of continuing education credits to our staff." The room features a SMART board and refreshment area, along with chairs and tables that offer flexible seating arrangements. It's a win-win: a comfortable, convenient, and cost-saving educational resource for all.


Though the facility just opened last year, Willowbrooke at Tanner is already looking to the future. "We have designed it so that we can add another 20 beds to it," says Tanner's Senior Vice President Larry Steed. He adds that Tanner will also be looking into incorporating other treatment modalities, such as brain mapping for people with PTSD, into the core services at Willowbrooke at Tanner.

Well received by staff and clients alike, Willowbrooke at Tanner has set a new standard for behavioral healthcare delivery for Tanner and for the state of Georgia. "Willowbrooke's development has confirmed how critical it is to include staff in a leadership role in the architecture, design, and flow of the facility," Howard says. "If you truly stay committed to that approach, you end up with a better facility that is really geared toward taking care of patients."

RELATED ARTICLE: Furnishing Willowbrooke at Tanner

Mark Camp and Kevin Sutton of Advantage Office Solutions turned to dozens of furnishing manufacturers in their efforts to supply Willowbrooke at Tanner with the finest resources for the brand-new facility. Some of the furnishings featured throughout the facility were manufactured by:

* GlobalCare: Patient lounges, group and consultation rooms, dining room

* Kl: Continuing education seating

* Legacy Furniture Group: Lobby

* Recover Care: Client beds

* Teknion: Staff offices and training area

* Landscape Forms: Exterior furnishings

* Shaw Contract: Carpet

* Armstrong: Floor tile

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Title Annotation:DESIGN FOCUS
Author:Barba, Lindsay
Publication:Behavioral Healthcare
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U5GA
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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