SCHENECTADY -- Ellis Hospital unveiled its newest facility Wednesday, this one dedicated to addressing the growing need for mental health services in the city.
Hospital officials and other community leaders gathered outside 1023 State St. for a ribbon-cutting and tour of the $3.5 million center ahead of its official Monday opening. Rising demand prompted the mental health facility's move from Ellis’ Lafayette Street center to the new building, which will provide more space and more programs, officials said.
“We had selected a number of sites in the past several years, and none of them really worked out,” said Wendy Rosher, executive vice president for operations and strategic planning at Ellis. “This one we were finally welcomed to, and we were able to put a wonderful facility together.”
In a 2013 Schenectady community health assessment, 25 percent of respondents reported being diagnosed with depression. The prevalence of mental health problems has intensified because of increased awareness, the opioid epidemic and other substance abuse issues, officials said.
The State Street location, just off the intersection with Brandywine Avenue, will make the facility more accessible to patients, Rosher said, since it’s right along a bus route.
The former location, at 216 Lafayette St., closed its doors for good on Wednesday. It comprised 19,000 square feet and served 1,400 patients, and due to space limitations, there was a waiting list of roughly 300 people.
The State Street location is 37,200 square feet and can accommodate more than 2,000 patients, said Donald Booth, Ellis’ senior director of service lines.
The building housed a car dealership in the 1930s and 40s and most recently was home to Contech, which manufactures cable boxes. When that company moved next door about a year ago, Ellis began to repurpose the space as a mental health center.
The structure was gutted and remodeled. It is now filled with stained wood floors, new windows providing natural light in nearly every room, dozens of cozy offices and a cavernous waiting room outfitted with wide chairs and high arm rests designed to provide a sense of privacy.
“It’s a better, more therapeutic environment for our patients to get their care,” Booth said.
The facility will house adult and child outpatient care, peer advocacy and vocational support programs, as well as a Personalized Recovery Oriented Services program, or PROS. The latter service will help participants identify and work toward individual goals for employment, relationships, housing, education and more.
By the end of the year, officials are hoping to open a primary care wing and a pediatric clinic inside the facility, making the State Street building a one-stop shop where patients can get integrated care.
“We’re talking about a patient population that might have trouble accessing that primary care, so this will keep them out of the ER,” Booth said.
The location will also begin offering, later this year, mental health urgent care. The clinic won’t be open 24 hours a day, but it will be open at peak hours to help reduce traffic at the ER and in the main hospital, Booth said.
Initially, the facility will employ about 40 people: a psychiatric nurse practitioner, six psychiatrists, 18 social workers, two nurses and 10 additional support and administrative staff, Booth said.
In the next few years, the services and staffing will grow to include at least two more psychiatrists, eight social workers and one registered nurse, Booth said.