Innovative Partnership Brings the Massachusetts Mental Health Center Back to the LMA

In November, the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) and the state’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) will return to the LMA in new clinical, research and administrative facilities, thanks to a unique public/private partnership between the state, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the community organization Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH).

For more than 90 years, DMH’s Massachusetts Mental Health Center was located in a large facility on Fenwood Road. The aging facility was ill-suited to the current needs of consumers served by the DMH and MMHC, but state funding for a new facility was not available. In 2003 Brigham and Women’s Hospital joined with RTH to respond to a request for proposals for development rights to a 3.1 acre parcel of land that abuts both Brigham and RTH properties in return for constructing 70,000 square-feet of outpatient clinical care, research and administrative space for DMH. The proposal offered Brigham and Women’s and RTH space to build new facilities; and for MMHC and DMH, new space that meets the needs of adults with serious mental illness in their recovery. The project received approval in 2010 and work began immediately.

The Massachusetts Mental Health Center: New Facilities for Today’s Needs
The project started with the demolition of the old MMHC facility and removal and abatement of hazardous materials within the existing campus. Once this was complete, construction began on a new, state-of-the-art 20,000 square-foot outpatient facility and transitional shelter and a 50,000 square-foot outpatient, research and administrative building for MMHC. This stage of the project will be complete in November and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center expects to return to the LMA later in the year.

“Many individuals have worked very hard to make this landmark project possible,” said DMH Commissioner Barbara A. Leadholm, MS, MBA, “especially the leadership of DMH and the state Division of Capital Asset Management and our partners at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It has been years in the making and we are delighted that results of this unique collaboration will benefit the individuals who will be served by the new MMHC as well as the neighborhood, the medical community and the city of Boston.”

“The new MMHC will include a medical clinic that will address the unique medical needs of the center’s and other DMH clients,” Commissioner Leadholm continued. “The opportunities here are endless: integrated behavioral and medical care at one site; collaborations/affiliations with nearby hospitals for specialized services; teaching and training opportunities for psychiatric and medical residents and allied medical students; research activity.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provided funds for the construction, and in return, received a 95-year land lease on the balance of the parcel.

“We look forward to the completion of this project and are so pleased that the Massachusetts Mental Health Center will soon return to our neighborhood, promoting recovery and providing support to those with mental illness,” said BWH president Betsy Nabel, MD. “This initiative is what we strive for in a partnership that benefits the community that we at the Brigham are truly proud to serve.”

Roxbury Tenants of Harvard: Advancing the Commitment to Affordable Housing
As part of the agreement, Brigham and Women’s is subletting more than an acre of the land to the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. The non-profit community group manages more than 1,000 subsidized housing units that abut the MMH property. The group is working to secure funds to construct an additional residential development of 150-160 apartments and condominiums. Planned for completion in 2015 or 2016, all of the rental apartments will be designated for low-income residents; the condominiums will be an even mix of subsidized and market-rate units.

“This project will give us the opportunity to add 66 affordable rental units and help create home ownership opportunities for those with low and moderate incomes,” says Girma Belay, executive director of RTH. “We’ll also add a state-of-the-art community center, gym and multipurpose facility that will serve youth, adults and senior citizens. The entire project is a win-win for the hospital, RTH, and the community at large.”

Brigham Building for the Future (BBF): Investing in Research
In the spring of 2013, Brigham and Women’s will begin construction on a 360,000 square-foot clinical and research building that will be connected to the main hospital by a bridge across and a tunnel beneath Fenwood Road. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the BBF will include space for outpatient clinical care, state-of-the-art research labs, advanced imaging facilities and underground parking for 406 cars. The proximity of space for scientific study and direct care is central to the emerging field of translational medicine – the rapid transition of clinical advances from the bench to the bedside. The field aims to speed development of promising therapies by fostering opportunities for collaboration and knowledge transfer. The new space will also allow consolidation of many of the hospital’s research laboratory leases.

Brigham and Women’s is also moving forward with construction of a patient parking garage at the Brigham Green project. This 406-car underground parking garage, located at 15 Francis St., will be capped by a park. Construction preparation began this August, with an official construction start anticipated this winter.

“It’s very satisfying to work on a project that meets the needs of several diverse organizations and groups,” says Joe O’Farrell, construction manager for the project. “It’s a remarkable collaboration that will deliver benefits for everyone involved, including the community and the patients served by DMH and the Brigham.”

Focus on Green Building Practices
According to Arthur Mombourquette, Brigham and Women’s vice president of support services, all of the construction on the site is designed to meet rigorous LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, the internationally-recognized green building certification system. “We expect to achieve LEED certification for all of the buildings, and perhaps earn LEED silver or gold designation. Our Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, which opened in 2008, earned LEED silver, and we’re working to do even better this time.”

For more information on the project contact Arthur Mombourquette at 617-732-6842.