Construction begins at Bartlett Hospital in Juneau, a $ 14 million behavioral health building coming next winter

The remains of Bartlett’s Outpatient Psychiatric Services building on July 8 in Juneau. (Claire Stremple / KTOO)

Contractors at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau launched a multi-million dollar expansion project last month. The new building will house the regional hub’s behavioral health balloon program.

There’s a rubble-strewn hole where Bartlett’s outpatient psychiatric ward used to be. Going downhill, an excavator moves new rock into what will be the basis of a $ 14 million upgrade.

But when Bartlett’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer Bradley Grigg looks at the construction site, he sees a four-story building that will house the hospital’s fastest growing ward..

“So the crisis patient rooms will be at the back of the facility facing the canal,” says Grigg, pointing to the Glacier Highway toward the Gastineau Canal.

He’s not just excited about the therapeutic views of Juneau’s waterfront. The behavioral health service has more than 10 times more patients than in September 2019.

So the building that will fill the hillside space below it will be almost ten times the size of what was here before. It will house the behavioral health staff of 150 already working in the hospital and ideally have sufficient capacity to eliminate or reduce waiting lists.

“This will really be a game-changer in terms of access to treatment for those who enter. It is on demand. It’s 24/7, there is staff 24/7. Psychiatry, therapist, behavioral health associates, nurses, ”he said.

The hospital is embarking on its biggest investment project in a decade because it doesn’t have enough space to house what Grigg calls an “endless” influx of patients.

Currently, the Behavioral Health Service has only one youth inpatient bed. The new facility will have 8 beds that can accommodate adults or children. Currently, behavioral health patients who need to stay in a hospital must travel to Anchorage.

“We don’t want to ship them north, that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t happen on occasion. But our ultimate goal is to allow any child from Juneau and the South East to come to our unit. In order to keep them as close as possible to their home community. We know that if they’re closer they’ll get better treatment, ”Grigg said.

Even when the hospital administration sat down on the final plans for the new building this year, they realized that the hospital had already outgrown the unbuilt structure. They decided to add an entire floor. The cost of the additional floor was quickly accepted by the hospital assembly and board. It will house 15 offices for therapists, nurses and a case manager.

Jeanne Rynn is the municipal architect of the Engineering Department of the City and the Borough of Juneau. The entrepreneurs inaugurated the project last month.

“The team of architects is currently working on the drawings to add the third floor. So, you know, it’s very unusual to design the building while you’re building part of it, and they try to stay ahead of the construction schedule, ”she said.

Soaring lumber prices precipitated another last-minute change to the final plan. In early July, the architects finished designing the footprint of the foundations of what is now a steel structure. Rynn says it’s been a little stressful, but the finished building will be worth it.

“I think the end result will serve the community well, so it’s a valid cause for a good long term goal. And once the building is there, no one will care what we went through to get there. You know, this is the story. It takes a life of its own at that point, ”Rynn said.

The cost of the additional floor was quickly accepted by the hospital assembly and board. It will house 15 offices for therapists, nurses and a case manager.

Grigg and his team secured approximately $ 5 million in outside funding for the project. The hospital will foot the bill for the remaining $ 9 million, with the approval of the Juneau assembly and its own board of directors.

The goal is to have the exterior of the building by the end of this season, so that the work can continue inside during the winter. Construction of the building is expected to be completed by the winter of next year.

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