Genesee Health System, Center for Children’s Integrated Health, Flint, Mich.

Public mental health provider Genesee Health System (GHS; Flint, Mich.) was operating its children’s mental health services from three separate buildings at different locations in Flint due to growth and expansion of services.

This set-up created barriers for families who had to navigate different services and programs. “Although not every child had to go to all three places, we looked at it as disrespectful to individuals who might have had transportation challenges,” says Danis (Dan) Russell, chief executive officer at GHS.

Pediatric mental health services on the rise

Demand for children’s mental health services had also increased in the community over the years, exacerbated even more with the pandemic and the 2014 Flint water crisis that caused harmful effects of lead exposure, particularly in children, with autism being one of the leading outcomes.

A desire to serve as a one-stop shop for Genesee County families and mental health services, as well as anticipation for growing demand for children’s services, led GHS to think about a new location.

GHS’s initial plan was to rent a larger, existing building to colocate  services as well as have room to expand its offerings, including adding a federally qualified health center (FQHC) for primary care services.

However, in August 2020, GHS received private and public funding to support building a facility designed for its specific needs. Soon after, the organization engaged HED, a Detroit-based integrated architecture, engineering, and planning firm, to begin planning and design on a new facility in Flint.

Unifying children’s behavioral health services

Opened in September 2022, the new $23 million Center for Children’s Integrated Services brings together all of GHS’s core behavioral health programs, including the Neurological Center for Excellence, Child and Family Services, and the Children’s Autism Center.

The facility also houses the new FQHC and Community Outreach, which includes child case management services and a mental health mobile clinic.

“The driving objective was to create a building that’s designed for kids and where everyone—kids, family, and staff—feel that they are worth the effort, are important, and matter,” Russell says.

To ease navigation within the 60,000-square-foot, two-level facility, designers utilized an L-shape layout. “Patients and visitors don’t need to navigate through a maze of hallways to find the correct treatment space,” says Jessi Mesalic, associate and senior designer at HED.

On the first floor, the main lobby includes an open stairway, public café, and shared spaces that encourage socialization and connection for patients and families.

Each service line has its own dedicated area/wing within the building that includes waiting areas. For example, the Children’s Autism Center is on the first floor and features four treatment pods with different therapy areas as well as seven treatment observation areas with two-way observation windows and separate entrances for caregivers. “It was important that children didn’t feel like they were on display,” Mesalic says.

On the second floor, the Neurological Center for Excellence incorporates natural wood tones with pops of color in the waiting area to create an inviting atmosphere for children and their families.

Caregiver input informs design

The design team gathered input from caregivers to inform the center’s overall design, including eliminating sharp angles in favor of rounded edges on treatment pods and spaces to help young patient see what’s coming next—an important consideration for children with autism who can become apprehensive when they don’t know next steps.

The project also offered an opportunity to address staff needs. “Not having a single facility fueled a lack of synergy and important cultural structure for caregivers,” David Jaeger, principal and healthcare sector leader says.

To better foster a strong workplace culture at the new facility,  designers added four dedicated staff respite spaces adjacent to flexible conference spaces and meeting rooms on the second floor to further support staff needs.

Overall, Russell says the new facility offers a welcoming center for patients, families, and staff. “I hope they feel that when they walk into the Center for Children’s Integrated Services,” he says.

For more on mental health care in pediatric facilities, read this Healthcare Design article here.

Tracey Walker is managing editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at


Project details for Genesee Health System, Center for Children’s Integrated Health

Project location: Flint, Mich.

Project completion date: July 2022

Owner: Genesee Health System

Total building area: 57,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $23 million

Cost/sq. ft.: Approximately $224

Architecture: HED

Interior design: HED

General contractor: D W Lurvey Construction

Engineering: HED

Builder: D W Lurvey Construction

Art consultant: N/A

Art/pictures: By owner

AV equipment/electronics/software: By owner

Carpet/flooring: Milliken, Upofloor, Olympia Tile, Stone Peak Tile, Florida Tile

Ceiling/wall systems: Certainteed, Rulon International, MBI Acoustic Products

Doors/locks/hardware: VT Industries, Schlage

Fabric/textiles: DesignTex, Maharam

Furniture—seating/casegoods: Kentwood Furniture

Project details are provided by the design team and are not vetted by Healthcare Design.