Behavioral Hospital Expansion Underway in Illinois

By Eric Althoff

WAUKEGAN, Ill.A dire shortage of inpatient beds for those suffering mental or behavioral episodes has made expansion of the Lake Behavioral Hospital in Lake County, Ill., a necessity. 

Legat Architects of Chicago has designed a new 88,000-square-foot hospital on the site of the former Vista Medical Center West campus in Waukegan for client US HealthVest.  According to Legat, the existing 46 beds in the current psychiatric unit remain operational while the new hospital is being built by Reed Construction.  When completed, the facility will have 146 beds in total. 

Legat project manager José Belardo was quoted by the company as saying the former Vista Medical Center West campus “was like a ghost town” when Legat reps came in to tour the facility at the invitation of US HealthVest.  Nevertheless, the Legat team worked with US HealthVest on the plans so that they would better conform with strict Illinois health and safety codes. 

According to Legat, this required a complete gutting and refurbishment to the existing 58,000-square-foot building that included outpatient center, main lobby and offices for Lake Behavioral Hospital.  An expansion of some 30,000 additional square feet will entail electrical and storage rooms, a kitchen, dining areas and other facilities for staff.  Two of the floors of the building will contain the patient bed areas. 

Patient safety was also a top priority in the design, with elements such as high-impact drywall being incorporated to avoid patients injuring themselves, particularly during a psychological episode.  Furthermore, the design incorporates an exercise area, group therapy rooms and outdoor activity space. 

Legat said that a hospital redesign and expansion of this magnitude typically requires over a year of planning, but Belardo and his team were able to get the plans ready in less than five months. 

Belardo was quoted by the company as saying of the expedited schedule: “Several factors enabled us to meet the tight timeline. … Most important, US HealthVest had a clear vision and a well-detailed plan of action. Our Lake County-based team developed a precise schedule and we drew from other Legat studios to meet each deadline.”

Lake Behavioral Hospital is equipped to deal with behavioral health emergencies as well as assisting with addiction services specialized for women, youth and geriatric patients.  They also have specialized programs to deal with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder.

Construction of the new hospital facility is expected to be completed in the spring of 2020.

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