By Anne O'Connor
DEVENS -- The first phase of an inpatient behavioral health center has opened. TaraVista welcomed its first patient to Devens.
The hospital was a bustling place the last day in October. Contractors put the finishing touches on the 12-bed unit that CEO Michael P. Krupa, EdD, planned to open before the end of the week. Another 24-bed unit is slated to open in mid-November.
When the facility is fully up and running, an additional four units will bring the total number of beds to 108. Until that last unit is open, scheduled for early 2017, the hospital will accept patients 18 and older. The last unit will serve patients 16 through 25.
The hospital is for psychiatric patients requiring acute treatment. Most admissions will be through emergency rooms of local hospitals. Many patients, up to 80 percent, will also have substance abuse problems, Krupa said. TaraVista will offer detox services.
"I'm really trying to provide a very fine facility for everybody," he said. The hospital is welcoming, safe and pleasant for patients and staff. It was designed it that way, using input and guidance from patients, families and professionals to create the smallest and largest features of the bright, airy building.
"To build a hospital is just enormous," Krupa said. "It's remarkable." While touring the hospital, he was kept busy answering questions from contractors, pointing out areas that need attention and keeping up with a stream of texts.
"We are really proud of this," he said. "This is not your typical facility."
The patient areas must meet safety guidelines. But, it is important to Krupa that the interior does not feel like a prison.
From a distance, the large window in each patient room looks like any other window. It's not. The blind is embedded between panes of glass. Patients have a safe control to they can open and close it.
A vent below the window, also controlled by patients, allows natural air and sound into the room. These are unusual features, Krupa said.
Bathroom doors must open in and out and must not reach the top or bottom of the frame. A flexible brush covers the gaps "for just a little privacy," he said. There are no sharp edges and even the towel hook will break off if it is pulled.
Furniture is just heavy enough that it can be moved, but a patient would have a hard time throwing it. Workers were filling the bases of pedestal tables with 75 pounds of sand to meet that criteria.
Patients need a way to access the internet so each unit will have laptops in a library/resource room. The paint colors are bright and each unit has an aquarium.
Corridors telescope, just slightly, to the large windows at the end. Staff can keep an eye on rooms at once and everyone can enjoy the view. The hospital abuts the golf course and landscaping plans include 2,000 plants and 200 trees.
A courtyard in the center of building gives folks a chance to be outside without leaving the hospital. In nice weather, it will have tables and chairs for dining.
The main entrance, not yet complete, will welcome families and provide areas to talk. Materials on mental health and a meeting room can be used by the general public.
For staff, it is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a brand-new hospital that will be in existence for another 100 years, Krupa said. "This will never happen again. It's something to be part of the first group."
Doctors and social workers will have their offices in the individual units. "I wanted them all to be here with the patients," Krupa said. There will be six to eight people on duty in each 24-bed unit during every shift.
So far, TaraVista has hired 100 staff members and he expects to have 200 full-time equivalents when it is fully open. The new employees range from people at the beginning of their careers to experienced professionals, he said.
Some of the funding for the hospital came from the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The program is for foreign investors that plan to create full-time jobs in the United States, Krupa said.
Other funding was raised privately and through a commercial loan from Washington Trust Lending. Krupa is an investor.
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