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Revolutionizing psychiatric care

Sneak peek: New Menninger Clinic Mental Health Epicenter redefines the status quo

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None of the existing furniture or supplies will make the move from Menninger's old facility on Gessner Drive, so fine bedding and bath linens were bought new — and nice. Photo by Whitney Radley
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All of the patient buildings face an interior courtyard. Berms form a visual barrier, creating a simultaneous sense of openness and privacy. Other outdoor features include a meditation garden, a labyrinth and an herb garden.  Photo by Whitney Radley
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The Menninger Clinic focuses on overall wellness. The campus is outfitted with a saline swimming pool, a basketball gym, workout equipment and a pilates room.  Photo by Whitney Radley
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Even interior spaces emphasize the outdoors. This is a patient common area, with adjoining computer areas and private rooms off to the side for quiet gatherings.  Photo by Whitney Radley
News_Menninger Clinic_April 2012_sheets
News_Menninger Clinic_April 2012_landscaping_grounds
News_Menninger Clinic_April 2012_pool
News_Menninger Clinic_April 2012_community room

Almost 10 years ago, the Menninger Clinic, a nationally-renowned psychiatric treatment facility, made a big move to Houston from its longtime home base in Topeka, Kan., to be near the Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital, its new affiliates. 

Seventeen months ago, Menninger started work on a new 120-bed hospital, situated on 50 sprawling acres just south of the Texas Medical Center. And on May 1, the clinic's Mental Health Epicenter will open as the new home for the thousands of patients Menninger sees each year. (A grand opening program will be held on Thursday, featuring former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, with guided tours available.)

The move puts Menninger significantly closer to its hospital affiliates, which will ease collaboration, while also allowing room for future expansion. According to president and CEO Ian Aitken, next steps include a neuroscience research facility and improved outpatient services.  

 Our exclusive tour of the new facility proves that it doesn't look like your typical hospital. 

 And that's not to mention the aesthetic improvements. 

Our exclusive tour of the new facility proves that it doesn't look like your typical hospital. The buildings' clean lines form a circle around a large courtyard, which is filled with rolling hills and a leafy landscape. The space is meant to feel peaceful and introspective, with a focus on the outdoors. 

Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture inspired the design (valances in the patient rooms even incorporate a design based on a Wright painting) — an influence evident from the dark wood molding to the pervasive stained glass motif to the heavy, linear furniture interspersed throughout the campus. 

The clinic's history is interwoven throughout, too, with photographs from the hospital in Topeka and artifacts from doctors and patients past. 

Shawna Morris, senior vice president and chief operating officer, explained that everything at the new facility was planned out to the last detail: Plenty of courtyards and al fresco seating areas, including an outdoor kitchen; fine bed linens and mattresses to fit individual preferences; real dishware in the cafeteria, as well as a commissioned art piece lining the dining room wall that is virtually indestructible, and able to be cleaned with a damp cloth.  

Each employee — all of whom work at the hospital full-time, unlike most psychiatric facilities — has access to natural light, including the usually-sequestered pharmacists and the chefs in the kitchen. Most have a window view of what matters: The patients. 

 Most employees have a window view of what matters: The patients. ​

 The visual design aligns with the original intentions of the clinic, which was founded by Drs. Karl, Will and Charles F. Menninger in 1919.

"The Menningers are giants in psychology. They were very much interested in addressing stigma about mental health," Aitken told CultureMap.

Aitken explained that Menniger's treatment distinguishes itself from many others because of the length of stay: Patients spend six to eight weeks at the clinic, an average of 45 days longer than at other treatment facilities.

"This is important because people have complex disorders," said Aitken. "We take the time to sort them out. We're known for wiping the slate clean." 

The Menninger Clinic will host guided tours of the Mental Health Epicenter from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, in conjunction with a grand opening program on the new campus. Find more information here

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