Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal has opened a newly renovated space for inpatient mental health and addiction recovery.
“Illinois, throughout the state, we have a need for inpatient mental health. Over time some of the state facilities have closed down, which has increased the need for local mental health facilities,” said Carle psychiatrist Dr. Girishkumar Dhorajia.
Behavioral health continues to be one of the top three issues in McLean County’s Community Health Improvement Plan through 2022.
The new Carle unit is a 13,000-square-foot renovated space that features new dimming lights, music therapy and an interactive whiteboard for staff and patients.
“It is inspirational for the staff as well as the patients. The lighting inspires learning and talking, for patients to be able to express themselves,” said Wendi Ashford, coordinator of behavioral health. “One aspect my therapists absolutely love is a wall you can write on with a dry-erase marker. The room is part of the therapy itself.”
The family check-in area is larger with additional locker space for visitors to store their belongings. The communal areas for both mental health and addiction offer a much more comforting setting as well.
Another focus the Carle team took was to reduce unnecessary, external stimuli for patients.
“When a patient comes in, they’re overwhelmed with all the stress and stimulus of life. Getting them into a hospital is targeting to decrease all those simulations,” said Dhorajia.
Dhorajia said Carle really paid attention to how the team could make the health unit a safe and secure environment for staff and patients.
For example, restroom doors consist of a soft yet sturdy material that prevents potential isolation while maintaining privacy. Also, wall clocks were previously prohibited, but have now been installed flush with the wall.
They didn’t make all the decisions' the Carle team also consulted patients to get their feedback.
“One of the biggest things patients identified were larger group rooms,” said RN and manager for Behavioral Health Chrissy Jennings. “They feel spacious, that really makes someone feel comfortable to attend. It is colorful, it helps someone not feel depressed with dark colors. We put a lot of thought into that.”
The renovation cost $4.8 million, funded by private and public donations.
Jennings said Carle has been on the journey of enhancement for about five years.
“We have had to recalculate, reidentify the right location and needs we wanted to provide,” said Jennings. “That takes time to really hone in on what’s our focus and the details to make sure we get things right.”
Jennings said the support from Advocate Aurora and Carle systems aided in creating the state-of-the-art health unit. (Carle took over the BroMenn facility in July).
Dhorajia said all the resources throughout the community are centered around the patient.
“When you look at the community, whether it is through our organization or another, all those resources work in conjunction. We work together with their services,” said Dhorajia. “It is about the continuum of care. I’m sure they (other mental health providers) would be very happy to hear we have upgraded our facility because essentially we all share this unit.”
“We talk about our patients and the opportunities that we have, but really behind the scenes, what we don’t give a lot of credit to is the staff that is day in and day out, giving their heart in soul and really working with people to help them heal in the most difficult times,” said Jennings.
Carle expects to welcome patients in the next few weeks as the renovation project recently passed inspection by the Illinois Department of Public Health.