Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Pay Attention to Details: Many Factors Influence Furniture Selection for Behavioral Healthcare Environments

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Pay Attention to Details: Many Factors Influence Furniture Selection for Behavioral Healthcare Environments

Article excerpt

In behavioral healthcare, the nuts and bolts really do matter--especially when you're talking about furniture.

"You really need to pay attention to everything about the furniture you buy," says Steven Lindquist, executive director of Avera Behavioral Health Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Lindquist has been involved in the interior environmental development of two inpatient psychiatric facilities: the 110-bed Avera Center and a 300-bed facility. Lindquist pays attention to details, such as knobs and hinges on patient wardrobes, to make sure they're appropriate for and safe in psychiatric environments--and durable enough for their demands. For example, regarding locks on cabinetry, he says, "Builders may put in a regular-type lock, but it needs to be something that stands up to harder use."

Durability is often the trump card in selecting furniture for healthcare environments, notes Tom Walker, regional director of sales for Nemschoff, a furniture manufacturer based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Walker says that furniture in behavioral healthcare settings frequently is abused or misused by patients who are confused or subject to mood swings. "They may want to use the furniture to take out their frustration," he explains.

Hand-in-hand with durability are safety features. Lindquist recommends examining if furniture can be easily broken or disassembled (e.g., can drawers be removed from dressers or legs taken off chairs?). Broken or detachable parts of furniture can be used as weapons or in suicide attempts.

But furniture isn't damaged just by patients. Before purchasing furniture, Walker suggests that buyers check if the manufacturer offers replacement parts should it be damaged by staff, such as by using floor-cleaning machines.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jim Isom, operations manager for The Right Step addiction treatment facilities, adds that purchasers should choose furniture that can be cleaned easily. For example, most Right Step facilities use commercial white plastic tables in classrooms for adolescents. "If the kids write on the table, it's easily cleaned and you don't have to worry about replacing them," he says.

Lindquist advises paying attention to the durability of furniture coverings, as well. "We found slick vinyl coverings looked nice, but they could be easily picked apart," he explains. The coverings also could be punctured by pens and pencils. Lindquist says that woven vinyl coverings "are not 'pickable. …

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