EXCLUSIVE: Look inside UCSF's massive new mental health care facility

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The pandemic has created an even greater need for mental health care. To meet that need, UCSF is building a new home for its psychiatry department.

Construction is in its final phase for the new building a block from UCSF's Mission Bay hospital, but the hard work has yet to begin.

"It's a very thoughtful design by the university on how to really integrate research and clinical space in the same building, which they've never had for mental health," said developer Dan Kingsley of SKS Partners.

The 150,000-square-foot facility is expected to double UCSF's mental health care capacity to between 70,000 and 80,000 visits per year by providing outpatient mental health care for patients of all ages. ABC7 News got an exclusive tour of the building. The light, open, airy space is designed to be the opposite of hiding in a dark corridor to see a therapist. It's meant to visually destigmatize mental health.

The building is named after John Pritzker's sister, Nancy Friend Pritzker, who died by suicide in 1972 when she was 25.

"I suspect had she survived today, there would be therapies that would be very effective," John Pritzker said.

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"We are like almost any family that has suffered through mental illness and didn't want to talk about it, weren't comfortable talking about it, and the problem that stigma creates is it's a barrier to treatment," he said. "It still ripples through our family."

John and his former wife Lisa Stone Pritzker, who both live in San Francisco, donated $60 million to the project. They hope to help make mental health care accessible to all communities.

"The pandemic has exacerbated America's mental health crisis, particularly among children," said Lisa Pritzker in a statement. "The Bay Area is fortunate that the most innovative minds in brain health are right here at UCSF, and that the Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, and its Child, Teen and Family Center, will destigmatize mental health and provide a welcoming environment where everyone -- regardless of life circumstances -- can feel safe in seeking help."

"We have Third Street Rail, Muni hubs and the UCSF shuttle hubs here. So from Bayview Hunters Point, from Parnassus, from all points around the city, you can get here through public transit," explained John.
Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF, Dr. Matthew State, said ensuring at-risk communities can access care is critical.

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"We're working closely with the city to make sure that kids in the city, particularly those who are on Medical, will be able to have access to these specialized services that are hard to access in other ways," State said.

State is a child psychiatrist and explained some of the services he expects they will provide for children and families in the new building include "eating disorders, treatment, refractory mood disorders and dialectic behavioral therapy for adolescents, autism evaluations and intensive treatment."

He said beyond providing more space and capacity, and replacing the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, which is set to be demolished at UCSF's Parnassus campus, the new building will prioritize psychiatry.

"In addition to simply providing additional room and capacity in these specialized clinics, we hope and expect that -- like in many other areas -- UCSF will lead the country in developing a next generation of more effective interventions (and) that we will use this research platform to have a powerful impact on our ability to provide care that that is effective and really helpful to families. And also, to change the narrative about seeking help for mental illness."

The Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry building is scheduled to open in the fall.

If you or someone you know is currently dealing with a mental health crisis, we have provided resources to help here.
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