Alexian Brothers’ Residence Transforms into Behavioral Healthcare Center

In a 48-bed healthcare facility in suburban Chicago, Illinois, frames are messily hung on the wall, a virtual reality machine stands in the corner and the scent of gunpowder charges the air. It’s hard to imagine that these elements foster cutting-edge behavioral therapy at the recently completed Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center, which specifically treats adults 18 years and older suffering from anxiety disorders such as PTSD, OCD and addiction.

Eckenhoff Saunders Architects morphed what was a dark, dated residential area for 24 Alexian brothers into a comforting, colorful oasis for patients who will come from the Chicagoland area and from around the country. They will come here as an intermediary step between hospital treatment and returning to everyday life. Some patients stay for a few days, some return daily for treatment, some remain for longer journeys.

The intentional design of the 16,000-square-foot Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center begins outside. New landscaping with a stucco-and-wood exterior with bamboo touches and a translucent illuminated glass facade lend a friendly, soothing first impression. Inside the lobby, an open oak-clad stair ties together the first and second floors and draws daylight from new skylights down to the lower level. New glazing throughout the remainder of the facility enlivens the interior with the therapeutic effects of natural light and provides warmth to the finish palette. Inside, the rooms have various levels of security and supervision, but the space feels as comfortable as the clients’ homes. For instance, the interior has expansive views and access to the pond and landscaped area and the patio.

“As the designer, we were faced with many challenges. First, an approach to upgrading a structure built over 30 years ago to modern day code. In addition, how to transform a cavernous interior—with a short floor-to-floor height—into a bright space where natural light is omnipresent. By designing a healthcare interior which edged on the side of hospitality, it was our goal to provide an environment where patients felt comfortable on their road to restoring and recovery,” says Jackie Wilcox, interior architect on the project.

Patients exercise their autonomy and independence by using the community kitchen and breakfast bar. They share private time with friends and family in meeting rooms or go to the reflection room for some meditative time. Public and private spaces are flexible to suit a range of activities and include group therapy rooms, consult rooms, art therapy, virtual reality spaces and a self-serve dining and breakout space. Patients also have a library, gym, phone room and patio where they can enjoy lunch or group activities. Features like hardwood floors, comfortable furniture, pocket seating areas and carpeted bedrooms with operable windows make it easy to forget the ligature-resistant sinks, toilets and shower heads, and joint-free/monolithic/tamper-resistant fasteners. Even the wallpaper and coverings were considered. They had to be made flat and smooth to prevent patients with OCD from picking them apart.

It’s not all about OCD, though. In the 100-square-foot ERP (exposure-response-prevention) therapy room a virtual reality machine can throw tequila and rum scents into the air.

“We call that a cue exposure. If I give alcoholics exposure to a drinking scene in here, I can help them get over those triggers and help them begin to lead sober lives,” says Dr. Patrick McGrath, assistant vice president of residential services at AMITA, who worked with the ESA team to tailor the facilities specifically to treat anxiety and addiction. For those military members suffering from PTSD he’d replace the scent to gunpowder and use different VR scenes.

“They did a great job of making sure our clinical needs were met and gave us a beautiful, warm, inviting environment,” says Julie Geils, director of patient experience and project management for AMITA Health. “With the exposed brick, reclaimed wood and stained concrete, the organic look really wows anyone who walks in. It’s quite different from when the brothers lived there. They had such small rooms. Now it’s all open and light.”

The general contractor on the project was Walsh Construction.

Photos courtesy of Mariusz Mizera Photography.

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Posted April 16, 2018

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