UMC Links


July 2, 2010 (SALT LAKE CITY)-University of Utah Health Care and the U School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry will break ground July 7 on a new 80-bed, 120,000 square-foot expansion to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). The ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. just east of the current UNI building at 501 Chipeta Way in the University’s Research Park.

Along with the much needed addition of private inpatient beds, the expansion will greatly increase the capacity for intensive outpatient, aftercare, and substance-abuse services, as well as provide a new home for training and research by relocating the University’s Department of Psychiatry to the facility. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, well known blogger Heather Armstrong, University Hospital CEO David Entwistle, and other UNI and psychiatry department administrators will speak and participate at the ceremony.

“There is a critical need for inpatient psychiatric treatment in our community – and it continues to grow,” said Ross Van Vranken, UNI executive director. “Our facility is always full and there is a waiting list for many acutely ill patients. This is particularly serious for adolescents and school-age children.”

The move to the new building will allow the psychiatry department to provide greater clinical guidance and teaching experiences for future psychiatrists, psychologists, residents, nurses, and other mental health professionals. The new space also will provide much needed room for clinical treatment research, brain imaging, and the study of the genetics of mental illness, according to William M. McMahon, M.D., professor and chairman of psychiatry at the medical school, according to William M. McMahon, M.D., professor and chairman of psychiatry at the medical school.

“Bringing the clinical, teaching and research missions together will increase their capabilities individually and, more importantly, as a whole, providing our patients with exceptional, ‘best practice’ mental health care,” McMahon said.

In 1986, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute opened as a 90 bed free-standing psychiatric hospital under the name, The Western Institute of Neuropsychiatry. In 1994, The University of Utah purchased the Western Institute and continued its psychiatric services under the renamed University Neuropsychiatric Institute. Since then, UNI has served those with acute mental illness, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders throughout the Western United States and the world.

According to Bernard I. Grosser, M.D., professor and former chairman of psychiatry (1978-2007), “The expansion of UNI reflects the evolution of public awareness of serious mental illnesses. When we built this facility 25 years ago, there was far less recognition of its need; the ensuing years, however, have more than justified the investment.”

In the recent past there has been a change in the way that mental illnesses are perceived and treated, although the stigma remains a barrier. Today, we know that with the right treatment, people with mental illness can improve and experience a better, more productive quality of life. University of Utah Health Care understands that treating, protecting, and strengthening our mental health is just as important and fundamental as our physical health. UNI and the Department of Psychiatry work every day to improve the lives of people with mental illness.