A dozen large cushy chairs and loveseats in warm colors sat in a circle next to a wall of windows overlooking a tranquil courtyard.
The courtyard was empty, and so were the chairs.
But they won't stay that way for long.
Lourdes Counseling Center in Richland opens its new Transitions facility Monday.
Transitions will be the Tri-Cities' only mental health crisis triage facility, and officials say it's a much-needed addition that will help fill a gap in the care for people with mental illness.
"It is a really unique service that we can offer our community, that will address many different kinds of needs -- jail diversion, short-term resolution of a mental health crisis, where we're able to help people quickly resolve a crisis and move back into the community rather than getting sicker and sicker," said Barbara Mead, vice president of behavioral health and physician clinics for Lourdes Health Network.
Transitions has 16 private rooms for patients.
The rooms are designed to be comfortable and functional, but also safe. The doorknobs and bathroom fixtures, for example, are specially designed so patients can't loop cords or bed sheets around them in an attempt to hurt themselves.
The facility also has long hallways, with plenty of room to walk to help calm nerves. A small exercise space is in one corner near the sitting area with the cushy chairs and the wall of windows.
Other features range from a dining and snack area to an exam room, conference room space and a quiet area to meet with patients when they first arrive.
Officials have said Transitions will serve as a step-up or a step-down in care, helping people before their crisis gets to the point they need psychiatric hospitalization or as they transition from a hospital stay back home.
In some cases, patients will come through self-referrals or referrals from family members or providers such as counselors. In other cases, they will come through law enforcement.
Some patients also may stay at the facility while awaiting an in-patient psychiatric hospital bed.
Officials expect the average patient stay to be three to five days. They also expect the new facility will have a ripple effect, helping to ease some pressure on the limited number of local psychiatric hospital beds, as well as on emergency rooms and traditional acute care hospitals, where patients in mental health crisis can end up.
Greater Columbia Behavioral Health and Benton and Franklin Counties Human Services partnered with Lourdes to make Transitions happen.
The $2.1 million price tag includes a mix of state and Human Services money, Mead said.
Officials gathered input from criminal justice leaders, mental health consumer advocates and other groups as they designed the program.
Transitions will have a minimum of four staff members on per shift, including a nurse, a masters-level mental health professional clinician, a mental health counselor and a mental health aide.
Thirty-three people have been hired for the facility as full-time, part-time or per diem workers. Dana Oatis, manager of extended community services for Lourdes Counseling Center, said the crew is eager to get to work to serve patients.
Transitions is at the Lourdes Counseling Center campus on Carondelet Drive near Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, in remodeled and expanded space that used to hold the in-patient adolescent unit. Meier Architecture worked on the project, along with contractor Chervenell Construction.
Mead said she is looking forward to Monday, when the facility will debut after so much planning and effort to bring it to fruition. "It will be amazing," she said. "Besides it being beautiful, the work that people put into this and what it will mean to the community -- it's really touching to me."
A blessing and ribbon-cutting are planned at 10 a.m., followed by an open house.
If you go
-- What: Blessing, ribbon-cutting and open house for Lourdes Counseling Center's new Transitions mental health crisis triage center.
-- When: Blessing at 10 a.m. Monday, followed by an open house and tour at 10:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served.
-- Where: Lourdes Counseling Center, 1175 Carondelet Drive, Richland.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald