Special Furniture Design Features for Your Behavioral Health Unit

Behavioral units are intended for patients suffering from significant mental disorders. Illnesses treated vary from psychosis to Alzheimer's and dementia. While equipment needs of behavioral units depend upon the types of patients, a common theme is that furnishings should be designed for safety and comfort as well as to provide a congenial atmosphere.

Special attention must be paid to furniture design, which should conform to appropriate design guidelines for behavioral health facilities.

Special Needs of Behavioral Units
Behavioral health units include those offering out-patient treatment, in-patient medical intervention and those providing assisted living for patients suffering from memory loss and dementia. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10 million adults in the U.S. have serious functional impairments due to mental illness, and a significant percentage suffer from acute depression.

Important equipment design considerations include the need to:

  • Reduce the risk of injury to patients and staff
  • Ensure durability
  • Present an atmosphere that promotes healing

Furniture Design and Appearance
Organizations involved in caring for patients with behavioral health issues have moved away from an institutional approach to one focusing on day rooms, activity areas, counseling spaces and dining rooms. Design features of furniture used in these settings include:

  • Aesthetic design: Finishings should be modern and bright with warm, pleasing colors. Chairs should be designed for comfort and practicality. Upholstery made of flame-retardant materials and easy to clean.
  • Durable: The core structure should be durable and built from materials that are not easily broken; wood, metal and high strength plastics are ideal. Accessible fastenings should be tamperproof so that furniture cannot be dissembled.
  • Attached to the floor: Where possible, tables and chairs need to be anchored to the floor with robust metal brackets.
  • Rounded edges: Smooth, round edges are preferable to reduce the risk of injury to patients and staff.
  • Sled-base: To reduce the risk of violent patients using chair legs as clubs, sled-based chairs are preferred to chairs with distinct legs.

Furniture in Patients' Rooms
While patients' rooms should be comfortable and as home-like as possible, several steps need to be taken to reduce the risk of harm to patients:

  • Beds: Beds should be strong, secured to the floor, and preferably of an enclosed design. Mattresses should resist abuse, contamination and not incorporate springs.
  • Storage units: These should be open-fronted without doors, drawers or hanging space. Fixed shelves should be provided for the storage of clothing and personal possessions.

The use of attractive artwork helps minimize an institutional appearance. However, certain precautions should be taken:

  • Attachments: Attach artwork tightly to walls using tamperproof screws.
  • Frames: Artwork frames should be heavy, not easily damaged, beveled and have no sharp edges.
  • Glazing: Polycarbonate glazing should be used.

Sourcing Furniture
The specification and procurement of furniture and equipment for behavioral units is a complex task requiring time and expertise. This is why you should consider working with Concordance Healthcare Solutions' Equipment and Furniture team. Our team provides hands-on assistance to identify your specific needs, and through our supplier relationships, we source the best furniture at the lowest cost. 

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