Greater awareness of mental health issues, changes in treatment methods and the need for updated facilities have led to expansions and new construction in behavioral health, although not a building boom, according to behavioral health and construction industry leaders.
In the past, treatment for behavioral health was confined to psychiatric institutions. Today, acknowledgement of mental illness is more pervasiveand mental illness also more acceptedin society, creating a need for modern facilities that are in step with the latest and most effective treatments. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some 26% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. The institute also reports that mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada.
In Washington, some policymakers are responding to what has become a major health concern for many Americans. Earlier this year on Capitol Hill, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Pete Domenici
(R-N.M.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced mental health parity legislation in the Senate, and Kennedys son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy
(D-R.I.), introduced a separate bill in the House, which could draw more attention to the issue in both the public and private sectors.
But greater awareness does not mean there will be significant growth in this segment, according to Ryan Daniels, an analyst with William Blair & Co. in Chicago.
Youre going to see the existing providers add beds to existing facilities, Daniels says. I also think in some markets where there is not a presence, you will see some construction. An example of this is in Las Vegas.
Near Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., Pioneer Behavioral Health saw a need to build a new inpatient facility. Previously, the Peabody, Mass.-based behavioral health provider had provided services in six outpatient clinics in the Las Vegas area, primarily to provide services to employees in the gaming industry. Pioneer plans to open Seven Hills Behavioral Institute, a $9 million, 60-bed acute, psychiatric hospital for adults and adolescents in November or December 2007. Bruce Shear, president and chief executive officer at Pioneer, says it was a natural move for the company to build the facility, which is the first hospital Pioneer built from scratch. It is also the first new psychiatric facility in Las Vegas in 20 years, Shear says. Still, he says he thinks the opportunity is unique and that there will not be a lot of new construction in this segment.
But Tim Rommel, a principal with Cannon Design in Buffalo, N.Y., says the recent legislation has led to a resurgence of interest in mental health facilities, and companies such as Cannon are responding to the heightened awareness. In the past few years, Cannon has worked on 12 new replacement behavioral health facilities across North Americawhich are either completed or in various stages of designsomething Rommel says is astounding and that he hasnt seen in his 30-year career.
Certainly the methods of treatment have changed, Rommel says. If you look at the average length of stay, it has dropped tremendously. Just the method of practice even a few years ago was accommodation. Now its active treatment and reintegration into the community. The facilities really need to respond to that and promote a type of treatment method.
Twenty-five years ago, length-of-stay was often determined in years, according to Rommel. Today, it is measured in days.
If you think about a 10-day length of staythat is 240 hours. If you take 100 away for sleep, youre left with 140 hours to stabilize, diagnose, begin treatment, begin looking at (a) discharge plan, Rommel says. The facilities can really impact the patients care by providing the maximum amount of treatment possible. Or it can affect them negatively if not designed correctly.