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New facility allows for smoother experience, increased versatility

October 24, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Environments for Recovery
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Operators of Gateway Rehabilitation Center’s year-old residential center for youths have decided it’s best to give young people their space—literally. The added capacity made possible with the new site on Gateway’s campus has allowed for separation of the youth population from adult treatment clients, as well as more effective segregation of the genders.

It also has made for a smoother everyday experience in the clinical setting. “Our lounges are now different from our group space,” says Nicole Kurash, clinical director of inpatient youth programs, whereas in the past the program had to use one room for multiple purposes. “We didn’t have that before, so it was harder for the young people to transition [from one activity to another].”

Richard A. Foster, PhD, Gateway’s executive vice president for treatment programs, says the idea for a new facility to help meet an emerging need for youth inpatient treatment had been a decade in the making at Gateway. After encountering some community resistance toward the idea of building off-site, Gateway received the local government’s blessing to develop a new facility on its own campus.

Two programs operate out of the Youth Services Center: a 21-bed traditional program (28 days) for boys and girls, and a three-to-four month program for juvenile males who are court-ordered to receive intensive services. Males and females use separate stairwells to access the floors of the facility, but all patients are considered to be in the same treatment program. Most of the youths in the programs range in age from 15 to 17, although some are as young as 13 or as old as 19.

Kurash says staff members often observe that you’d never know there were youths residing at a site that she describes as maintaining an orderly atmosphere. “There is not a lot of chaos in the building,” she says. “Many of these young people come from homes of chaos. We don’t use an intercom system in the building—not a lot of noise is going on that would produce anxiety.”

Yet at the same time, the center was designed with several security- and accountability-related considerations in mind. While access to patients’ private bathrooms is reached from patient rooms, access to showers occurs from the shared hallways. Units are separated by doors, and people have to be buzzed in. Much of this is about knowing where the patient is at all times.

Other features of the center exude a sense of calmness. Warm colors and an abundance of windows give the facility a non-hospital feel. Each of the residents’ rooms faces a wooded area behind the building, so that everyone enjoys a serene view. Framed artworks depicting nature and famous landmarks adorn the walls of the center.

Amenities inside the building include a chapel; it is not uncommon for a patient’s priest or minister to visit, and family members make use of the chapel as well. A licensed school within the center allows youths to stay on track with their education while in treatment.

Gateway also makes good use of outdoor spaces tied into the center. A courtyard in the middle of the building offers a prime location for groups or individual therapy sessions. An open field adjacent to the center allows for recreational activity.

Foster says that while youths’ previous location in the same building with adults had been safe, there were significant constraints. If, for instance, the program for males was at capacity but there was room in the program for females, boys still would have to wait for a slot to open up. Gateway has been able to shed waiting lists over the past year thanks to the added capacity in the new center.

Fisher says Gateway worked with Pittsburgh firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative as the architectural consultant on the project; it formerly had designed Gateway’s detox unit. Much of the furniture for the building came from Pittsburgh-based Mount Lebanon Office Furniture & Interiors, with which Gateway has had a long-term working relationship. Custom-made products include wardrobes that are slanted at the top in order to prevent the hiding of contraband.