DURHAM, N.C. — In the middle of a pandemic when people are facing so many different issues, treating mental health just got a little easier in Durham.

What You Need To Know

  • There are spaces at the new center created specifically for families to discuss their trauma with families who have already endured it

  • 42 private inpatient rooms with two secure courtyards

  • 18 private treatment spaces in the emergency department with a secure courtyard

On Monday, Duke Health opened a new behavioral health facility offering multiple services for a patient and their family at one location.

ECT recovery room, Courtesy: Stephanie Lopez, Duke Health

Duke Health’s Behavioral Health Facility will be a one-stop shop for patients and their families who need it. In the past, there were different places a patient had to go to if he or she were seeing a doctor for in-and-out patient procedures. The new center combines the behavioral health services previously offered separately at Duke University and Duke Regional hospitals.

Active courtyard, Courtesy: Stephanie Lopez, Duke Health

Suzanne Mayer is a mother and mental health professional who knows the pitfalls of navigating help for real life problems. As someone who has gone through it, Mayer says families will benefit.

She says a dozen years ago, her son experienced psychosis, a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. If anyone can tell you how difficult it is to get someone help when they need it, it’s Mayer. During a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building, she spoke about the trauma.

“Twelve years ago, my son came home from college in the midst of what was his first psychotic breakdown,” Mayer says.

Even as someone who works with people facing behavioral health problems, Mayer explains she didn’t know what to do when it happened to her own son.

“I was in an awful space, as well as my loved one, and to try to think through these things while you are in that space is too much. It’s overwhelming,” she says.

Twelve years into that journey, she says the need for support never stops. Flash forward to 2021, she says hopefully she has learned some things from it.

“Everybody needs help because it’s not a five days and you are over it kind of thing. It is an ongoing lengthy process,” she says.

She says a step toward change began with the opening of the facility because patients will access a full spectrum of care under one roof.

Facility gardens, Courtesy: Stephanie Lopez, Duke Health

“I think this facility will improve care for everyone,” she says.

From the design of the door handles, to adding sunlight in rooms, to the openness of courtyard spaces, there’s a physical intention to make the patient and family experience better, according to the hospital President Katie Galbraith.

“This is really a mission driven project to ensure dignity for our patients who have been marginalized over the years,” Galbraith says.

On top of everything else, families can talk to other families who have already gone through it.

“Families can take a breath, cry, get a cup of coffee, talk to somebody who has been through this, and not feel quite, hopefully, as overwhelmed,” Mayer says.

According to a press release shared by Duke Health spokesperson Stephanie Lopez, expansion of the emergency department also enables the hospital to better meet patient volumes. The new addition increases capacity from 36 to 49 treatment rooms.

“Our emergency department was built to accommodate 25,000 to 35,000 patient visits annually,” Galbraith says. “But we now see up to 64,000 patients a year. This expansion addresses these needs.”