Fresh Start for Long-Troubled Psychiatric Hospital

City, health officials open new St. Elizabeths

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A big step may have been taken toward the reform of  D.C's mental health system.,

    Thursday, Mayor Adrian Fenty helped officials open the doors to the new St. Elizabeths Hospital in southeast Washington.

    The 450,000-square-foot building took three years and cost more than $170 million to build.

    City leaders said that investment will help change lives. The new hospital is fully accredited for psychiatry,  and psychology programs. The building's design (which includes airy green spaces off each unit, an enclosed courtyard and a rooftop rain garden) will be incorporated into patient treatment.

    "For the 292 District residents who are going to be residents of this new facility, this is a promise made and deferred, but at long last it is here," said At-Large Council member David Catania

    "This will just be a way station," said Department of Mental Health Director Stephen Baron. "This will not be people's homes. This will be a place to recover and return to the community."

    Patients will begin to move in at the end of April. Officials are also hoping the new building means a new start for a long-troubled psychiatric hospital.

    St. Elizabeths opened in 1855.  It has been under scrutiny for years.

    In 2007, it agreed to major changes in patient safety, nursing care and other areas under a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. In December, the department said the hospital failed to comply with many of the requirements.