West LA Betty Ford Center focuses on privacy, convenience

The Betty Ford Center in West Los Angeles is the first satellite facility built under the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation name after the 2014 merger. The nearly 5,000 square foot facility is located in a multi-tenant building in Santa Monica, Calif., that includes a restaurant, salon and a bank. The outpatient center opened in January 2015 and provides continuity of care for patients receiving outpatient substance use disorder treatment services.

Alyssa Scholz, principal and director of interior design for the Los Angeles office of HGA, says the center demonstrates a new way to think about the location and design of outpatient treatment centers.

“Previously, patients in this area were going to a remote facility or a place outside of their network to receive treatment, which was inconvenient,” says Scholz, who served as the lead designer for the West Los Angeles Betty Ford Center. “The goal was to create an all-in-one facility so that patients didn’t have to go to multiple locations for treatment.”

The highly visible facility, which prominently features the Betty Ford name on its exterior, is within close proximity to Beverly Hills and the University of California Los Angeles. With its high-traffic location on Santa Monica Boulevard, it was important to select a building that provided patients and staff with privacy and security.

The center sees about 30 patients a day, and Matthew Polacheck, PsyD, director of outpatient services for the Betty Ford Center, says that having multiple entrances was essential to ensure patients’ comfort level in accessing the facility.

“The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) room and the other group counseling room have private entrances. A lot of people come to our center and are concerned about their privacy,” Polacheck says. “We have a private entrance and exit that is unmarked that patients can access from underground.”

Though the center is on a busy boulevard, the interior space is vast with an observation room, eight rooms for one-on-one patient exams and three rooms for group sessions.

Patient options

When entering the space, patients are welcomed at the centrally located receptionist area, which serves as a center point for all of the facilities other treatment areas. The space is warm and spacious, but also clear of workspace clutter. Offices for staff members are located away from patient areas, while informal spaces where staff and patients can have semi-private conversations are designed near group rooms. A “break-out” room is used as both a café and a place for patients to talk to one another or reflect.

“We want patients and staff to be comfortable, but not too comfortable. And there are medical and psychological reasons for that,” Polacheck says. “We need staff to be able to go from sympathetic to para-sympathetic quickly. The design, even the chairs that were chosen, helps with that.”

Polacheck says that creating an ambiance with natural lighting and simulated green space was important to helping patients make a connection from remote treatment centers to the outpatient center.

“The goal was to create an atmosphere set in a place where patients weren’t overstimulated and could process information,” Polacheck says, adding that the center’s two- way mural and other aesthetic details aid in the connection. “Patients see the same painting and photos that are in our other centers. We have the same trees from the Center City [Minnesota] addiction treatment center in the AA room.”

With plans to possibly expand the outpatient behavioral health model to other markets for the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation, Scholz says she hopes the design of this facility, with its attention to privacy details, can serve as a template other high-traffic centers.

“The staff are very happy with the functionality and being able to provide these services in this community,” Scholz says.

Donna Marbury is a freelance writer based in Ohio.

Photos by Tom Bonner Photography.