Part of the Solution: Smart Construction Addressing the Mental Health Bed Shortage with Crucial Infrastructure Support

By Scott Salyer, Vice President of Operations, AP Southwest

Mental health care and wellness is an increasingly hot topic, particularly since the pandemic, which fueled a rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression as Americans grappled with uncertainty.

While the increase in need has risen, access to care hasn’t been able to keep up. According to Mental Health America, Arizona currently ranks 46th nationwide for access to behavioral health care. In Maricopa County, where the shortage is particularly prevalent, there is a 900-bed shortage, resulting in long wait times for those facing urgent crises. As a leader in healthcare construction, this shortage is especially pertinent to Adolfson & Peterson Construction (AP), where we are driven by a strong mission to build for people, not just companies.

Steadfastly believing in the importance of our clients’ missions, AP employs more than 30 years of building excellence in Arizona to bring these purpose-driven projects to life, helping healthcare providers deliver critically needed services to those who need them most in our communities.

In the healthcare space specifically, we have worked collaboratively with highly respected client partners, including Reunion Rehabilitation Hospitals, Acadia Healthcare and United Surgical Partners International among others, to complete numerous healthcare projects that have made a marked difference for Arizona’s burgeoning population.

The Need for Consciously Built Behavioral Health Facilities

By leveraging our expertise and fostering partnerships with prominent healthcare stakeholders, we have consistently pioneered innovative approaches to constructing transformative spaces that prioritize patient well-being. These unique solutions focus on producing healing environments that are more calming and supportive for behavioral health patients. This is what building with purpose is all about – putting intention behind our projects.

More specifically, we are:

  • Building for Long-term Impact – To effectively address the mental health bed shortage in Arizona, emphasizing quality builds is paramount. This not only creates the physical space for new beds, but also ensures these behavioral health facilities remain operational for years to come without needing costly improvements.
    • Longevity of a facility begins with quality materials. It’s important to recognize that long-term savings – both in terms of money and uninterrupted patient care – outweigh the slightly elevated initial costs spent on quality materials. Contractors that aren’t mission focused can lose sight of this concept, instead opting for sub-par materials or mediocre workmanship that can create future hazards and structural issues. Not only will this approach lead to a massive financial hit, but it puts these much-needed rooms and facilities out of commission.
    • When you work with a contractor that utilizes proper construction methods and materials, you are less likely to need rework or repairs on your project throughout the years. AP’s focus extends beyond dollars and cents, prioritizing the completion of projects to ensure the best possible facilities are in place to serve patients.
    • Ensuring a facility has a long lifespan also means having a well-trained crew that is always on the lookout for opportunities to boost the quality of the build. By investing in our team, AP equips them with the knowledge to spot worksite challenges or potential pitfalls that could compromise the longevity of a build.
  • Improving the Patient Experience – While safety and quality are of utmost importance, we also look at ways to elevate the overall patient experience by creating welcoming and supportive environments. Incorporating functional design features are critical to accomplishing this goal. Several studies show the positive effects behavioral health building design has on a patient’s healing journey.
    • Our experience reinforces these findings. Over the years, we have worked closely with our clients to collaboratively devise solutions contributing to patient wellness, including:
      • Incorporating elements that create a homelike, deinstitutionalized setting supporting patient autonomy and control over their own environment.
      • Ensuring the on-paper designs translate into a thoughtful and functional environment in real life.
      • Providing noise control solutions.
      • Recommending options supporting privacy.
      • Amplifying physical access to the outdoors.

Making an Impact One Project at a Time

Though there is still a significant shortage of mental health beds in Arizona, we are working with our partners to close this gap.

As a case in point, we recently reached a significant milestone with the topping out ceremony of our latest project with Acadia Healthcare, Agave Ridge Behavioral Hospital in Mesa, which will bring 100 new beds to the East Valley, to help mitigate the gap in mental health care. The 73,930-square-foot hospital includes inpatient nursing units for adults and adolescents, exterior activity yards, an interior activity center, group therapy areas, administrative offices, PHP/IOP/ECT clinics, a pharmacy, kitchen, dining hall and training conference rooms.

The topping out milestone signifies more than the midpoint in construction. It celebrates two partners who are one step closer to opening a high-quality, in-demand facility where lives are changed and hope is restored.

We are also working with Acadia Healthcare on the expansion of Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital, which will bring 55 additional beds to the East Valley. We are also undertaking the renovation of 33 patient rooms at Sierra Tucson. This complements our work in the West Valley where Reunion Rehabilitation Hospital Peoria recently opened its doors. These types of health industry partnerships put AP at the forefront of bringing care to those who need it the most.

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