The Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion addresses a growing pediatric mental health crisis.

Take a tour of the new Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and you’re likely to be heartbroken and grateful all in the same visit. 

The new facility, located west of the main Nationwide Children’s campus just north of Livingston Avenue, is the country’s largest behavioral and mental health center located on a pediatric medical campus.

The nine-story, 386,000-square-foot building has a sleek exterior, but the inside feels warm and welcoming thanks to a scaled-down lobby and the use of wood finishes, natural light and nature graphics throughout. Ed Cheshire, senior project manager for Nationwide Children’s, says those touches aim to avoid an “institutional feel.” Design work started in February 2016, Cheshire says, with a groundbreaking and the creation of room mockups in mid-2017. The pavilion opened March 10. 

Get top reads, event recommendations, guides, parenting trends and more ideas for family fun. Subscribe to Columbus Parent’s weekly e-newsletter, The Bulletin.

A growing pediatric mental health crisis—1 in 5 children now lives with such an illness—motivated hospital executives to build a facility exclusively for children and adolescents with behavioral and mental health issues. To think that 20 percent of children will at some point be diagnosed with a mental health condition is staggering. If the crisis doesn’t affect your child, it’s sure to touch someone your child knows. 

The level of thought and care that went into the building’s design, down to the smallest detail, is remarkable. The unfortunate reality of specializing in mental health issues is that the facility needs to put patient safety at the forefront. Room doors have anti-ligature sensors to ensure nothing can be hung from them. Doorknobs lack protruding parts for the same reason, and bathroom doors in patient rooms are padded panels that attach to their frames with magnets and Velcro. That there soon will be patients there who need to be kept safe from themselves is a sobering thing to contemplate. 

But there are lighter touches, too. The building incorporates thoughtful elements for patients and parents, including a family lounge and outdoor respite courtyard, screened porches on inpatient units, and a gym and play deck on the top floor where patients can just be a kid again for a while. 

Hope that you never have to visit the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion, but if you do, be very grateful that it’s here. 

See photos of Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. And read more about the growing pediatric mental health crisis in “Addressing the Pediatric Mental Health Crisis ” from our Spring issue.

This story is from the Spring 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.