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New facility in California homes in on behavioral health

Healthcare Facilities

New facility in California homes in on behavioral health

This project went the extra mile to comply with the state’s design and construction regulations.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | June 16, 2020

The newly opened West County Behavioral Center will handle patient overflow from the West County Health Center next door. Images: HED

During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear rather quickly that the healthcare system in the U.S. wasn’t flexible enough to handle the surge in patient capacity brought on by the spread of COVID-19. As hospitals and other medical facilities rethink their operations, future-ready patient services are likely to be more common.

Case in point: the two-story 20,800-sf West County Behavioral Health Center, which opened on March 9 in San Pablo, Calif. This standalone facility, next to the West County Health Center, moves behavioral health services out of a neighboring building. It has the capacity to treat 2,300 adult and 400 child patients annually.

Although not technically required for mental-health clinics, Contra Costa County decided to make the new building compliant with Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development 3 regulations for Administrative, Building, and MEP codes pertaining to licensed outpatient clinics. The county made this decision at the recommendation of HED, the design firm that co-led this design-build project with Overaa Construction. (HPS Architects completed the initial schematics.)

“HED believes that California’s commitment to regulating design and construction of healthcare buildings through OSHPD results in stronger, more resilient community infrastructure for health,” explains Tim Hurvitz, HED’s Healthcare Studio Leader. “Even given the time constraints and fast pace of the project, this decision was one that not all counties would have made, but we believe will provide great value long into the future.”

The new facility can treat 2,300 adult and 400 child patients annually.



The new building helps alleviate the main health center’s flow of patients for crisis counseling and brief therapy for specific behavioral issues. It also protects patients from contracting contagious illnesses that are often found at typical county health facilities.

Located in an active seismic zone, the building was designed to account for potential future seismic events. For example, a large vertical drift joint was incorporated, and hidden, within the design. The building, which was planned and designed in six months, meets California’s strict seismic requirements.

The LEED Silver-certified facility is distinguished by expansive glazing and colorful walls that are paired with different scales and patterns on the carpeted floors, which offer wayfinding and zoning.

Natural and artificial light combine to illuminate the clinic's lobby.


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