Patients receiving behavioral health care services at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph now have a safe and secure environment in which to get some exercise and a breath of fresh air.
And along with the opening of its indoor/outdoor Patient Activity Center, Project Renewal — the more than $50 million renovation that allowed behavioral health services to be consolidated at St. Joseph and the hospital to convert to private rooms — is substantially complete.
“It seems like this day would never come,” hospital president Laurie Labarca told those who gathered for its recent open house and blessing. “After all this waiting, we now get to use this space to better help patients.”
Part of mental health and healing is your physical health, says Robyn Chadwick, the Ascension Via Christi senior leader responsible for Behavioral Health.
“Here, patients can be active and get sunshine to improve their overall condition,” she says, which is important to patients, their families and their caregivers.
Krystal Mitchell, RN, nurse manager for the 50-bed Adult Behavioral Health Unit, says that patients who deal with mania often feel cooped up in their rooms, especially those who are hospitalized for longer periods of time.
“Getting to go outside or exercise unrestricted will be hugely beneficial,” Mitchell says.
Built on top of the hospital’s fifth-floor ICU, the more than $2 million cost of the Activity Center was funded entirely by community donations and grants.
“It’s great to have facilities that match the quality of work being done here,” says Lyndon B. “Lyndy” Wells, who as a member of the hospital board’s philanthropy committee helped lead efforts to raise funds for the project. “This truly was a team effort, not just for Ascension Via Christi but for our community.”
Credit Union of America was onboard from the moment its leaders were asked to contribute to the activity center, says Frank Shoffner, its chief executive officer.
Although CUA’s $100,000 gift was directed to the activity center, “It wasn’t just about the facility, but rather about supporting the vision of revitalizing the whole facility and behavioral health,” says Shoffner, who is a Via Christi Foundation board member. “We wanted to help any way we could to better our community by improving the behavioral health environment of care.”
Sister Anne Dolores Laplante, CSJ, a long-time mission leader for Ascension Via Christi who now serves on its board, says the activity center is in keeping with its founders’ historical mission. “This is a holistic — body, mind and soul — way of caring for those who may be the most vulnerable.”
- Kristi McNeal (left), Krystal Mitchell, RN (second left), and other staff smile at the completion of the facility
- Laurie Labarca (second right) with dedicated hospital volunteers
- The gym being blessed before it is used by patients
- The cardio area and ping pong table for patients to use
- Gym and play equipment for adolecents and adults
- The outdoor area above the ICU overlooking Wichita neighborhoods - complete with an outdoor speaker system and chalkboards