ABOUT: Family Service Guidance Center (FSGC)

The Family Service Guidance Center (FSGC) in Topeka, Kansas provides mental health services to nearly 10,000 children, teens and families from 24 Kansas counties every year. This includes crisis intervention, outpatient therapy and specialized day groups for children. FSGC also partners with schools to assist students in need and runs an Early Childhood Intervention Program to help young children succeed socially and emotionally. Through its services, this century-old institution strives to mitigate mental health issues to enhance community well-being. 

SITUATION: Advocate for Kansas’ Mental Health System Improvement

In the late 1990s, the closure of Topeka State Hospital and several psychiatric units resulted in the loss of around 5,000 mental health beds. FSGC filled this void, primarily focusing on youth care. They’ve since expanded yearly due to rising demand and now serve the lifespan and tackle substance use, including opioid addiction. They advocate for Kansas’ mental health system improvement, aiming to expand crisis beds for youth and transform mental health care not only in Kansas but nationwide. 

In 2018, recognizing the urgent need for improved services, they sought to overhaul their facility to cater to the expanding and varied needs of children. Their current space faced capacity limits, privacy issues and insufficient staff break areas. Emphasizing the importance of a secure, yet welcoming environment, they aimed to offer a welcoming atmosphere, unlike the cold and strict feeling often associated with hospitals. Their goal was to create a natural and supportive setting where children can comfortably address mental health challenges.  

Other areas needing attention included: 

  • Layout Concerns: The previous building had many nooks and crannies, making it difficult for staff to monitor and manage clients effectively. Clients could hide in these areas, requiring staff to be extra vigilant. 
  • Furniture Safety: The old furniture was not bolted down, allowing clients to move or block paths, posing safety risks. Also, despite regular cleaning, cloth upholstery deteriorated over time. 
  • Psychological Impact of Color: The vivid color scheme created sensory overload and lacked the calming effect of natural elements. 
  • Space for Education: They lacked a dedicated space for education, hindering academic activities for kids staying at the facility.

furniture office arrangements

SOLUTION: Design an Interior Space That Balanced Security and Humanity

FSGC partnered with Architect One to address these facility challenges, crafting a master plan through collaborative events with stakeholders. After diving into potential locations for the new facility, FSGC decided to build a new facility on a recaptured parking lot after a thorough needs assessment. 

“Everyone was moved by the purpose of this facility, its efforts to address, solve and aid our community, and knowing that we’re making a difference,” said Jacquelyn Rakoski-Diediker, Senior Project Manager for Architect One. “Interacting with the staff was phenomenal. Their ability to keep going day after day is remarkable, and we aimed to channel some of that energy into everything we did.” 

Architect One partnered with Scott Rice Office Works to design an interior space that balanced security and humanity. This collaboration redefined facility standards, creating a harmonious, secure and adaptable environment for healing and growth. 

The team made sure to maintain high quality while working within their budget constraints. They focused on safety and therapeutic progress, designing a layout to minimize blind spots and enhance supervision. Durable materials were chosen for high-use areas, with special screws and impact-resistant materials used to prevent harm and enhance functionality. 

They paid extra attention to places where people spend a lot of time, like client bedrooms, ensuring they would last and be comfortable by using reinforced drywall and wall coverings. For furniture, they selected secure pieces that would be useful, adding features like chalkboards and magnetic walls. They carefully chose colors to help clients and staff feel relaxed and emotionally well. 

“We wanted our facility to feel like a warm and inviting place, not just another cold, institutional building. So, we added touches like tall ceilings and colorful furniture to create a more welcoming atmosphere. This is especially important for teenagers and kids who might feel scared or lonely in a hospital-like environment,” said Travis Freed, FSGC Director of Crisis and Recovery Services. 

Here are some key design improvements: 

  • Bringing the Outdoors In: Large windows and high ceilings flood the space with natural light, connecting people to nature. Elements like forest-themed wall coverings and interactive outdoor areas boost well-being. 
  • Flexible Activity Room: This room serves many purposes, from education to dining and sports. With movable furniture, it adapts easily, encouraging community involvement. 
  • Secure Entryway: The “Sally Port” ensures privacy for arrivals, with controlled access using card readers and safety features like enclosed chains. It balances security with a welcoming feel. 
  • Privacy-Focused Glazing: Smart glazing offers privacy below eye level while still letting in natural light. This reduces anxiety from outdoor stimuli and maintains confidentiality, creating a soothing environment for recovery. 
  • Inclusive Design: Staff and clients from various backgrounds feel included in the space. Intentional choices in furniture and colors promote unity, with clients even helping to arrange colors and textures in spaces like the activity room, fostering a sense of ownership and belonging. 

“Walking through their environment and seeing the people running it, they seem like superhumans. To us, they’re angels. We want to work with angels,” said Kristin Horst, Healthcare Consultant at Scott Rice Office Works. 

RESULTS: Early Involvement to Treat More Children

The new facility, completed in fall 2023, aims to have a greater impact on the community through FSGC’s work. Their success is evident: 82% of children who might have been hospitalized are now treated here instead. Nightly, they manage around 12 children, employing de-escalation techniques to ease tensions. This achievement translates to fewer hospital visits and shorter stays in psychiatric residential treatment facilities. FSGC is sticking to their goal of getting involved early to break the cycle of recurrent hospitalizations. 

“Scott Rice really did their research and understood what we were looking for. We felt very heard and understood,” Freed said. “When clients walk in, they immediately notice the difference and feel more at ease, knowing they’re in a place where they’re cared for. And because of that, we’ve seen a positive change in behavior and an overall better experience for everyone involved.” 

The results of the transformation from staff, clients and stakeholders have been overwhelmingly positive. Staff members have noticed a positive shift in their work environment, with enhanced safety measures and a more pleasant atmosphere contributing to overall satisfaction. Clients, especially the young people under care, have embraced the ability to personalize their spaces. 

“They love the color, the feel, the idea. They’re comfortable. The kids love being able to modify and change what they want and need. Many of our youth who have experienced mental health hospitals and acute facilities note the difference – they say there is ‘flavor’ to it; it feels more like a homey atmosphere, which was exactly what we were going for,” Freed said. 

In a healthcare system where hospitals choose admissions, FSGC fills a critical role in addressing specialized cases, crucial for easing pressure on hospitals. Their new space sets a standard for mental health facility design, encouraging others to prioritize safety and personalization. Collaborating with industry leaders like Scott Rice Office Works and Architect One, FSGC is shaping the future of behavioral healthcare. Dedicated to growth and service expansion, they aim to exceed community needs, fostering a more compassionate approach to mental health care in Kansas and beyond. 

 “We’re really trying to change the system in Kansas. Soon, you’ll see more youth crisis beds here than any other state. We’re almost there with just two facilities in Kansas. Currently, there are only six youth crisis facilities in the entire country, and the state of Kansas is in the process of opening 6 new crisis and or respite centers for youth. It’s an incredible endeavor, and we’re thrilled about the support we’ve received and the opportunities ahead,” Freed said.  

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