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More than 20 years ago, McLean Hospital launched a unique residential program focused on helping patients get a clearer picture of their mental health. This self-pay service, The Pavilion, continues to provide unparalleled diagnostic care today.
When its doors were opened in November 1999, The Pavilion was the only residential program in the country to offer an intensive two-week mental health evaluation service. To this day, there are only a handful of similar programs nationwide, but none with the breadth of resources that The Pavilion offers.
Developing The Pavilion didn’t happen overnight.
Planning began in earnest in 1997, in discussions between Shervert H. Frazier, MD, the hospital’s former psychiatrist in chief, and its new president and psychiatrist in chief, Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD. The program didn’t welcome its first patients until more than two years later. Many other members of the eventual Pavilion staff are also credited with helping to create the program, filling an important niche in mental health care.
“Sherv and I thought that there were people in need who were looking for more in terms of evaluation, assessment, and advice than the ordinary system offers,” said Cohen. “Sometimes you can get really great care in our health care system, and sometimes you can’t. One of the hardest things to get is a complete evaluation because no coverage pays for that.”
Alexander Vuckovic, MD, was appointed the program’s medical director when it opened, and he is the medical director today. When the program opened, he said, “If this turns out to be popular, we will seriously think about expanding.”
It indeed turned out to be popular and has continued to be. That demand has led to a gradual expansion from 3 beds to 11 beds.
According to Vuckovic, the quality of the program and its inclusivity are keys to its appeal. “We take on all comers,” he said. “We are here to take care of people with almost any psychiatric diagnosis, including psychotic illnesses, depression, personality disorders, and substance use.”
The program especially serves those who are in the depths of their mental health struggles.
“The original assumption was that we would be catering to a population that was not as psychiatrically impaired,” said Philip G. Levendusky, PhD, ABPP, senior vice president of Business Development and Communications. “When the doors opened, however, those weren’t the folks who showed up. The people who came in were experiencing severe mental illness. Treatment wasn’t working for them, and they wanted the experts at McLean to help them find answers.”
Helping them to find answers is a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and senior clinical social workers. Access to an onsite sleep study lab and an imaging center complements their expertise. The team also collaborates with other clinicians from multiple disciplines throughout the hospital and from our Mass General Brigham affiliates Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Drawing on these vast resources helps The Pavilion staff not only identify psychiatric disorders but also medical conditions that can complicate a patient’s mental health care. This comprehensive approach, built into its design, makes The Pavilion unique.
When patients have a clearer picture of their mental health, they can then focus on seeking appropriate treatment. That presents another benefit of The Pavilion—immediate access to outpatient, partial hospital, and residential treatment programs.
Helping these patients finally reveal the roots of their mental health struggles and connect them with effective care has led to numerous stories of appreciation. Elizabeth, a former patient, and her daughter recently shared one such story.
Elizabeth formerly described herself as “a placeholder,” as “something that takes up space in the world.” Her perspective changed dramatically after she visited The Pavilion.
“They told me that there was recovery, that recovery was possible, instead of just living from crisis to crisis—and I did it,” said Elizabeth.
She worked hard to move from being hopeless to being hopeful and “full of love and not fear.”
“I am not the same person I was when I came to the Pavilion,” she said. “I’m a person. I’m not a placeholder.”
Experiences like Elizabeth’s have gradually led to a reliance on old-school, word-of-mouth advertising to attract new patients. According to the program’s leadership, most of The Pavilion’s patients come here after hearing about someone else’s positive experience.
“We’ve had many patients who’ve found their experience to be transformative,” said Mark Robart, LICSW, who has been The Pavilion’s program director since it opened. “It’s tremendously gratifying to be standing elbow to elbow with someone who’s trying to make their way through the world and to be able to help them see a path forward where they previously didn’t see one.”
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