Local News

Umstead Hospital Opens New Building

Posted March 15, 1996

— March 16, 1996, 10:55 a.m. EST For the first time in 50 years, a state psychiatric hospital has opened a new building for patients. John Umstead Hospital marked the event with a dedication ceremony Friday.

Two men were instrumental in getting the 150-bed building approved and completed. B. Gene Barrett, the former hospital director, campaigned to upgrade patient facilities from the converted army barracks in which they now are placed.

And former state Senator Kenneth C. Royall, a Durham Democrat and power in the General Assembly, saved the proposal and got the money approved for the hospital despite the $200 million budget deficit the state faced.

Both men were on hand to see the doors officially opened.

Umstead serves 16 counties in the state's north-central region, including Durham, Orange and Chatham. More than 120 adults are in the short-term section of the hospital on any given day. Patients are admitted for treatment of mental illness or drug addiction, and stay an average of 17 days.

Staff ideas were sought for the 85-000 square-foot structure, which is bright and airy, and which provides private rooms. Nurses' stations are open to the hall near each wing's entrance, allowing for increased interaction with patients.

Glass-enclosed recreation rooms are near the nurses' stations, and are designated for "noisy" activities such as tv or talking, or for more contemplative activities such as reading.

"This is a beautiful building," Royall told the staff and administrators. "I hope it will provide a warm atmosphere for the people you receive here.


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