Bright white chairs and tables fill a café-like setting to the right of the large welcoming lobby and receptionist desk. Down the hall, classrooms are filled with people taking a variety of courses, from music therapy to computer basics to relaxation skills. A large art installation featuring the composer Ludwig van Beethoven and the mathematician John Forbes Nash greets everyone who enters the new treatment mall at Georgia Regional Hospital – Atlanta (GRHA).
“Patience, they say, is what I must now choose for my guide, and I have done so,” Beethoven wrote in a 1802 letter to his brothers as he suffered from bipolar disorder. This quote, along with many others, are displayed in the lobby and serve as inspiration for the adult mental health patients who participate in therapeutic programming.
Opened in February 2015, the modern facility “embraces recovery with dignity and empowers those we serve,” said Andy Nguyen, treatment mall director.
With a full schedule of classes, break times for socialization and snacks, and lunch at the campus cafeteria, patients learn necessary life skills for independent living when they transition back to their communities. There are nurses, psychologists, activity therapists, social workers and dieticians, among other professionals, on site to help with their recovery.
This new model of hospitalization, where community-like settings are highlighted and emphasized, stands in stark contrast to the old type of institutionalization and isolation of mental health hospitals in the past.
Dr. Charles Li, GRHA’s hospital administrator, said that the new treatment mall teaches people how to live independently, such as cooking and managing their money. “You will see a lot of thought put into it – what it means to have active treatment and skilled training. We have a computer lab … so they can get a GED education. When people go back into the community, they have some skills to live, to work, to support themselves,” Dr. Li added.
To aid in their recovery, the staff at the treatment mall use three different types of programming. Treatment through individual and group therapy and classes teaches people how to deal with their illness such as anger management and medication management. The educational classes provide life skills and also knowledge about their illnesses. The recreational classes, including art and music therapy, enrich their lives.
In addition to the new treatment mall, more improvements to the GRHA campus are underway. Renovations to an existing building will house DBHDD’s Region 3 office on the hospital campus. There will also be a new multimedia training facility and a recreation center.