Over the last 30 years since Akron City Hospital combined with St. Thomas Hospital to form Summa Health, the system has been relocating services onto the main Akron, Ohio, campus. Eventually, this left St. Thomas Hospital almost empty—except for the behavioral health, psychiatry, and addiction services housed there. As other local hospitals closed their behavioral health units, Summa saw the need to expand and enhance its services.

Rather than renovate the century-old St. Thomas building, Summa sought to bring these services on its main campus, as well. The health system identified space for the new behavioral health hospital on the corner of its urban campus and demolished the former school of nursing (which had been vacant for years) to make room for the addition. Opened in February 2023, the new Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion consolidates Summa’s behavioral health services into one convenient space designed to optimize safety, privacy, and security while leveraging critical connections with the adjacent hospital.

Designed by Hasenstab Architects (Akron) in collaboration with Perspectus Architecture (Cleveland), the seven-story, 158,000-square-foot building houses outpatient services including psychiatry, addiction medicine, and traumatic stress on the lower floors, with 64 single-occupancy inpatient beds on the top four levels.

Being on the Akron City campus “allows our services to be properly integrated as part of the larger medical system,” says Dr. Joseph D. Varley, chair of the psychiatry department at Summa Health (Akron, Ohio). “It creates a more coherent organization.”

Integrated care within the health system

Demolishing the former school of nursing on Summa’s tight urban campus created “an extremely challenging site,” says Daniel Herstine, principal at Hasenstab Architects (Akron). Specifically, the location of the new behavioral health hospital was boxed in by an adjacent parking deck and professional office building and “bounded by the street and the main hospital across from that,” he says.

The design team maximized these limitations by leveraging strategic connections. For example, a skybridge from the parking deck to the new pavilion allows convenient yet secured visitation to inpatient units, while another skywalk connection to the main hospital gives providers easy access when mental health patients require acute medical care.

“It’s made a huge difference in our visibility and integration with the rest of the health system,” Varley says.

As part of the $88 million construction project, the existing hospital emergency department (ED) also added 15 emergency beds dedicated to behavioral health with special safety precautions. The construction project also capitalized on available space inside the existing hospital where the skywalk connects to the new pavilion—adding units there for detoxification and electroconvulsive therapy, which require medical observation and intervention from anesthesiologists.

“Medical staff in the main hospital can respond to those areas quickly,” Herstine explains, “which is much more convenient for the staff and the patients.”

Maximizing privacy, safety, and security

Previously, St. Thomas Hospital housed 69 semi-private beds across three inpatient units—none of which were designed to meet behavioral health building codes (like required ceiling heights and corridor widths) or best practices (like maintaining visibility down every hallway). At any given time, according to Varley, “five to 10 beds at St. Thomas were unoccupiable because the patient in the room could not tolerate a roommate.”

Even though the new 64-bed facility has fewer total beds, every room is now single occupancy. “We actually increased our capacity to treat more patients because we can operate at 100 percent occupancy,” he says.

The layout of the new facility also solves the challenge of admitting visitors into secure inpatient units. Previously, when visiting St. Thomas, guests would exit the elevator, pass through a glass enclosure, and emerge directly into the inpatient unit. “There was no way to keep visitation safe and efficient,” Varley says, or to protect the privacy of other patients in the unit.

In the new facility, visitors enter via the adjacent parking deck, passing through a secure check-in point where they’re scanned for contraband before taking an elevator up to the inpatient unit. On each inpatient floor, a separate waiting area between the elevator lobby and the unit gives visitors a private space to chat with individual patients.

The project team also sought to deliver an improved patient experience that didn’t feel confined or cramped. To achieve that, the design team created different common spaces to give patients a choice in where to spend their time, including screened-in balconies on each inpatient floor where they can access fresh air. Inside, three different social areas radiate outward from a central nurses’ station like spokes, offering quiet spaces, telephone booths, and TV viewing areas where patients can lounge without sacrificing visibility.

“Creating a central point of visual control is key,” Herstine says. In the old hospital, he says, hallways were designed in a racetrack layout that created lots of blinds spots and places for patients to hide.

In the new facility, “the corridors to the patient rooms branch out from the nurses’ station, allowing visualization of every door,” says Ed Friedl, vice president of construction and property management at Summa. “The patient rooms angle out, too, so nobody can hide in the corner.”

Preserving a legacy of Alcoholics Anonymous

Although the old behavioral health facility was outdated, St. Thomas holds a special place in the hearts and history of patients and staff because it was “part of the fabric that supported the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA),” Varley says.

Dr. Bob Smith, the founder of AA, practiced at St. Thomas where he operated the nation’s first hospital-based unit to treat alcoholism. While the building faces demolition later this year, Summa wanted to preserve some of that rich history and architecture.

To that end, the Sister Ignatia Heritage Center on the ground floor showcases historical artifacts—including two stained-glass windows from St. Thomas Hospital’s original chapel, which are visible from the street. Across the hallway from this museum, a large conference center can be partitioned into three separate spaces to host staff meetings, conferences, or community groups like AA.

Next to that, a peaceful reflection center serves as a nondenominational chapel, overlooking an outdoor serenity garden featuring more architectural artifacts salvaged from the school of nursing that previously occupied the site.

“We incorporated pieces of the building—like a copper portico and old stone window frames—into the courtyard design to recognize the site’s historic value,” Herstine says.

While a formal post-occupancy evaluation is being scheduled later this year, the facility already makes a bold statement about mental health.

“Summa’s choice to build this facility, purposefully integrated into its main campus, sends a message that this is an important part of medical care, and we value it,” Varley says.

Brooke Bilyj is a freelance writer and owner of Bantamedia (Cleveland) and can be reached at brooke@bantamedia.com.


Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion project details

Location: Akron, Ohio

Completion date: January 2023

Owner: Summa Health

Total building area: 158,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $70 million

Cost/sq. ft.: $443

Architect: Hasenstab Architects Inc. (architect of record) in collaboration with Perspectus Architecture

Interior designer: Hasenstab Architects Inc.

Construction manager at risk: Turner Construction Company, with associate partner G Stephens Inc.

Engineers: BWK Engineering (MEP), Thorson Baker + Associates (structural), Wohlwend Engineering Group (civil)

Landscape designer: Environmental Design Group

Kitchen Eequipment: McFarland Kistler & Associates, Inc.

Art consultant: Meg Stanton

Carpet/flooring: J&J Flooring, Mannington, Gerflor, Interface, Tarkett

Ceiling/wall systems: Certainteed

Doors/locks/hardware: Sargent, Pemko

Fabric/textiles: Momentum, Architex, Arc-Com

Furniture—seating/casegoods: Spec, Allsteel, Pineapple, Stance, Norix, Source International, JSI, Keilhauer, Global Furniture Group, SitOnIt

Handrails/wall guards: Inpro

Headwalls/booms: HSI

Signage/wayfinding: Interior Graphic Systems

Surfaces—solid/other: Tower Industries, Wilsonart, Corian, Novawall, Forbo, Nudo, Gold Medal Safety Padding, Virgina Tile

Other: Kingsway (toilet accessories)

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