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Converse College students redesigning Spartanburg Mental Health Center lobby

Herald-Journal - 2/25/2019

Feb. 25-- Feb. 25--The Spartanburg Mental Health Center lobby is getting a facelift to make it more inviting for patients and visitors, thanks to a project by Converse College interior commercial design students.

"For me, the big thing is I want it to be a welcoming presence, so that for patients who come into the center there will be an environment they feel is inviting," said Roger Williams, executive director of the mental health center. "I want them to feel welcome."

Williams said the idea stemmed from a discussion last fall at a dinner party with Converse professor Meirav Goldhour-Shvorin, whom he found out was a distant relative.

Goldhour-Shvorin told him she had an upcoming class looking for a project. He gladly suggested the front lobby of the mental health center, which he said looked rather drab and institutional.

"It was purely serendipity," Williams said.

The class will perform all the design work, while the mental health center will pay for construction costs. Williams said a cost estimate was being worked on.

Earlier this month, students first examined the center's lobby on Dewey Avenue to get a look at their challenge. They took pictures and are now working on space planning, Goldhour-Shvorin said.

Nine students have been divided into groups of three for the project.

One group is studying the application of colors to provide a soothing, welcoming appearance. The second group is looking at bringing in natural components, such as plants.

"Human beings are connected to nature," Goldhour-Shvorin said.

The students must also consider the safety of the patients, she said.

The third group is focusing on way-finding -- getting from Point A to Point B in the least stressful way. In a public healthcare facility, Goldhour-Shvorin said finding one's way around a building can be difficult.

On March 7, each design will be presented to Williams and his peer support staff to review and select a winner. The S.C. Department of Mental Health will fund the project, he said.

"Then our hope is to convert that into some real construction," Williams said.

Goldhour-Shvorin said the students will be graded. They must be able to make a satisfactory presentation and understand the durability and psychological aspects of the materials they select.

Juniors Andrea Abercrombie, Milissa Zint and Harley Haynes are working on the color scheme of the lobby.

"Colors can impact people," said Abercrombie, 50, a third-year student who is a healthcare administrator. "What I enjoy most is the ability to improve and enhance people's lives."

Haynes, 20, said she enjoys designing spaces to become as efficient as possible.

"I was surprised the way the (mental health) building was designed," she said. "I feel lucky for us to be able to help."

The other students are Hallie Lycans, Elizabeth Byar, Laura Gill, Allison Broughton, Logan Stevens and Nomi Pratt.

Goldhour-Shvorin said she looks forward to working with other community groups on future projects.

"I'm very much into being involved with the community and having students be involved in outreach," she said. "A passion of mine is integrating healthcare and involvement in the community."

Williams said it is a win for the mental health center and for Converse College.

"It gives us an opportunity to do something that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise," he said. "For the students, it meets their requirements for graduation. We're not telling them what to do."

The Spartanburg Mental Health sees an estimated 4,500 patients a year, Williams said. It is part of the S.C. Department of Mental Health, and Williams also oversees the Union and Cherokee mental health centers.

In all, the three clinics see about 6,000 patients a year, he said.

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(c)2019 the Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.)

Visit the Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.) at www.GoUpstate.com

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