New Community Center Opens its Doors to the Public

Wight & Company (Wight) joined DuPage County residents, local officials, and social service providers recently to celebrate the opening of a Community Center designed and built for the DuPage County Health Department. Located in Wheaton, IL, the new 33,000-square-foot Community Center was envisioned as a new model for mental health facilities, one that welcomes visitors into a warm, day-lit environment conducive to healing.

DuPage County Health Department officials tapped Wight to create a new building that would look and feel far different than the typical place where people coping with mental health issues can access services. Most mental health facilities across the country are sterile environments, more akin to medical clinics than inviting counseling centers. The design for the new Community Center draws on notions of hospitality and respite. A warm material palette, generous access to daylight, and comfortable furnishings establish a relaxed, non-threatening environment where patients can seek recovery from a broad spectrum of mental and behavioral conditions. The centerpiece of Wight’s design solution is an outdoor courtyard surrounded by the building’s program spaces. Landscaped as a healing garden, this courtyard provides a space for relaxation and reflection.

The Community Center is home to a range of mental health service programs. The DuPage County Health Department offers 24-hour crisis services, including respite beds for up to 12 individuals. The Health Department also provides counseling, psychosocial rehabilitation, vocational training, socialization, recreation and wellness services at the facility. Two key hotlines – one for crisis services and a second for suicide prevention – are also operated from within the center. The Community Center is an interesting example of a public/private partnership that benefits DuPage County residents. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness, has established its local headquarters at the site.

“This is a visionary concept for a mental health services facility,” said Jason Dwyer, Vice President at Wight, which provided architectural design, engineering and construction management services. “This new resource brings the full array of crisis and transitional services under one roof, making the experience for the clients seamless.”

“It was critically important to our client that we create an environment that feels warm and inviting, so that the people in need of mental health services feel comfortable in this space,” according to Dwyer. Wight team members paid close attention to this objective in designing the center. One key feature is the “Living Room,” where clients seeking an alternative to the hospital emergency room can receive crisis stabilization treatment in a peer-led, non-clinical environment that has a home-like setting. Other highlights of the bright, airy Community Center include:

  • A multipurpose gymnasium space with adjacent fitness room.
  • Meeting and counseling rooms available for educational classes, as well as group, individual and family counseling.
  • A large dining and group socialization space.
  • A training kitchen that supports vocational and daily living skills training.

“We wanted a building that would welcome the people we serve and help more of our clients gain recovery and wellness,” explained DuPage Board of Health President Linda Kurzawa. “Wight has been a great partner in helping us achieve this,” according to Kurzawa. Key Wight project team members for the Community Center included Jason Dwyer, Kevin Havens, Ania Szulc, Nick Sleboda, Adam Paoletti and Brian Wirth.