PORTLAND, Ore – Unity Center for Behavioral Health is almost ready to open its brand new lobby to the public.
Unity Center has been open for almost a year in Northeast Portland, but the lobby has still been under construction. Patients have to wait in a small room, that's been acting as a lobby, but the new lobby opens Jan. 4.
The lobby space is expansive, and open, and includes meaningful art and tapestries, like prayer flags.
“This was actually provided to us by someone who supports Unity who lives, herself, with serious mental illness,” said Chief Medical Officer Greg Miller. “This particular space, it's grand, it's large."
Miller says so far, Unity Center has already helped about 7,000 people.
Unity Center itself, is a unique place in Portland. Patients can immediately see a specialist. There's no more waiting days for help after visiting a hospital emergency room.
This comes at a time when mental health is a big topic of conversation in the city of Portland. About one-third of the patients Unity Center sees are homeless.
“There's a point in time in any city's growth when some of the problems of urban mental illness come to what I would consider a change point, or an overflow point,” said Miller. “Something needs to be done.”
“We feel like they should be treated with the same kind of restive approach as anybody else would,” Miller explained. “This lobby would offer us the ability to provide a calm, peaceful and restful setting.”
Unity Center's goal is also to decriminalize mental health. Patients can walk in, or are brought in by ambulance, not handcuffed and brought in by police officers.
With the construction of a new lobby also comes a new ambulance bay, and inside the building, a new first-responders lounge, providing a welcome break when needed.