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Mental and Behavioral Health Facilities: Critical Design Issues

This presentation describes a study that identified features in the physical environment that impact staff and patients in psychiatric environments and a research tool that was developed to evaluate the design of mental and behavioral health facilities. Pursuant to a broad literature review, researchers conducted 19 interviews with psychiatric staff, facility administrators and architects. Interview data was analyzed using a highly structured qualitative data analysis process. Seventeen topics were addressed, ranging from the importance of a deinstitutionalized environment to social interaction and autonomy. The interviewees reinforced the controversy that exists when a deinstitutionalized environment results in diminished patient and staff safety. Respondents tended to support open nurse stations versus enclosed stations. Support for access to nature and the provision of an aesthetic environment was strong. Most interviewees asserted that private rooms were highly desirable because lower room density reduces the institutional character of a unit. Responses of interviewees illustrate current opinion regarding best practice in the design of psychiatric facilities.