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UnityPoint Health - Meriter nearing completion of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Hospital

UnityPoint Health - Meriter nearing completion of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Hospital
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UnityPoint Health - Meriter nearing completion of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Hospital

MADISON, Wis. - UnityPoint Health - Meriter is three months away from the completion of the $13 million expansion of its Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Hospital. 

The expansion will double the footprint of the hospital to a total of 40,000 square feet. It will add 10 inpatient beds to the current 20 beds and add a number of programming spaces for patients and staff members. 

Increased demand for mental health services has forced the hospital to turn patients away in recent years. 

"The main driver of the expansion is absolutely demand and the need to improve access for mental health treatment," the medical director of the hospital, Dr. Katie Schmitt, said. "For nine months of the year during the school year, we run a wait list for our services and it is really hard to say no to these kids who need help. It's difficult for me and those who provide this service to understand that if a child had any other medical illness that was acutely dangerous, they would never be told to go home and wait."

About $2.6 million of a  $3 million private fundraising goal has been raised so far and  the hospital is spending $10 million to add extra inpatient beds, as well as additional space for outpatient treatment. 

"Patients coming in for day services will stay for a four-hour block or an eight-hour block," Schmitt said. "Currently, some of these services are not available in Madison so this is great. The other dream for this space is that it can be a community gathering area so, I'd love to partner with community resources and with schools to make this a place where everyone can come to learn about mental health."

The hospital admitted 850 patients last year. When Madison-area children or teens need inpatient psychiatric care but can't get in at Meriter, they generally go to one of seven other private units in the state, the closest of which is Rogers Behavioral Health in Oconomowoc. 

Schmitt worked with designers and engineers at Findorff Builders to come up with the unique design for the expansion that will better serve the needs of patients. "We're dividing our unit into an adolescent unit, a tween unit and a younger unit to tailor our care as independently as it needs to be," Schmitt said. "This is not a place where kids are in their bed hooked up to machines. They take full advantage of the space, learn coping skills, connect with one another and meet other kids who struggle in the same way which is so validating. This is truly a place where they can heal and learn and then go home with a new set of tools." 

The inpatient unit is a circular space which is much different than a typical hospital with a hallway and rooms across the hall. "All of our patients will have private rooms," Schmitt said. "The other really exciting part of how we designed the expansion is, we're giving kids the space to de-escalate before they escalate. Within each wall there are several different sensory rooms where patients can use equipment like crash pads or vestibular rocking chairs to learn how to soothe and calm so they can carry those skills with them."

The expansion also includes a full service kitchen, a state of the art computer room, staff lounge and classroom as well as a yoga studio. 

The ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the expansion is set for October. Remodeling on the current hospital will begin after that. The full 30-bed expansion will be operation in the spring of 2020.

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