SUN Behavioral Health celebrates ribbon cutting in Kentucky

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Please join NK Architects in congratulating SUN Behavioral Health and St. Elizabeth's Healthcare as they cut the ribbon and open the doors of their new behavioral health hospital in Erlanger, Kentucky. The 149,000 square foot facility includes nearly 200 beds for children, adolescents, and adults and fills a critical need in their mission to help patients with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Congratulations to our tremendous clients on their foresight and hard work in accomplishing this important project for northern Kentucky!

Below is an excerpt from NK Architect's Erin Newton, a member of NK's Healthcare team with a focus in design for Behavioral Health. Erin shares the following passage from "Newton's Notes" on Archinect:

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NK Architects and their Behavioral Healthcare Architecture Team exhale, as SUN Behavioral Health, in partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, opens its newly constructed doors to the community of Northern Kentucky. 

On President’s Day,February 19, 2018, SUN and St. Elizabeth’s will have a Ribbon Cutting & Dedication Ceremony for their New Behavioral Health Hospital, located on 13 acres of land in Erlanger, Kentucky.


For years NK Architects has been working on designing and supporting the construction of this new building. From the early planning days, through the challenges of construction (which included the installation of a 6 foot diameter stainless steel sphere in the welcoming area), the team worked to see the vision through to completion with a sense of dedication to the population to which it would serve.


The mission of SUN Behavioral Health is to partner with communities in solving the unmet needs of those suffering from mental illness and addiction disorders.  They do this by partnering with community partners, community hospitals, medical professionals, schools, private charities and government officials to fill in the gaps in behavioral healthcare. see:


SUN Behavioral Health’s motto is “solving unmet needs.”

The company’s President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Page sheds some light on what its team looks for when going into a new community:

What we are ultimately looking for is to see signs of patients getting stuck,” he says. “Maybe they are stuck in the emergency room for a long time because psychiatric services are full, so they are looking for a place where the patient can begin treatment. We create services to relieve access challenges...After years of dedication, hard work, intelligence and 40 million dollars, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Sun Behavioral Health will be opening the doors to building we have been designing, and working on with NK Architects.
— Steve Page, SUN Behavioral Health President & CEO (Source: The DCC Journal, Fall 2016 Issue)

The NK Architects Behavioral Healthcare team has been working with SUN & St. Elizabeth on Behavioral Healthcare Projects around the country for many years and values the role that architects and design professionals have to empower inhabitants and the greater community. 

  • As active members in their communities, making efforts beyond the design work to be advocates for Mental Health, the NK Behavioral Healthcare team seeks to:
  • Push the boundaries of possibilities;
  • Provide work that rises above the very cold institutional buildings that are often equated with “psychiatric hospitals”, and,Provide intelligent, healing, calming, and comfortable environments, regardless of the many constraints affecting this challenging, important area of work. 

This Behavioral Healthcare experience and advocacy inform the architectural work and drive the design process for the team.  Understanding and designing for the Behavioral Health patient population is further supported by active pursuit of extra knowledge, through education, research or involvement in other mental health concerns.

Fundamentally functioning from a position that Behavioral and Mental Health is Essential to Wellness, is a key driver behind NK Architect’s Behavioral Healthcare Architectural approach and in the design of the new building in Kentucky.  Wellness includes function, material and the immaterial.  A safe, comfortable atmosphere for patients and staff must harmonize many elements all working in chorus:

  • Open free space
  • Close safe space
  • Access to outdoor areas for recreation
  • Access to natural light & good interior light
  • Materials that are pleasing and calming,
  • Zones that allow for creativity, flexibility, activity
  • Security-focused materials, including windows and doors that are impact- and tamper-proof, and appropriately safe hardware, as well as pick-proof finishes, throughout the building.

Some of the ways the new building offers these are with:

  • Creative open islands, softly flowing in the center of large day spaces, establishing a sense of gentle movement and flow.
  • Living rooms, with arm chairs that are set up around televisions, creating a home cinema experience.
  • Two and four top café tables, and various configurations of spaces serving to create inclusiveness while gently expanding to provide appropriate boundaries.
  • Deep nurse stations that open up to the patients, on floor plans strategized to maximize sight lines for the staff (without making patients feel “on watch”).
  • Group rooms at the end of each wing are surrounded in natural light, which subtly emulates into the wings.


  • "Kentucky ranks 49th (second worst) in the number of people suffering from depression and 49th (second lowest) in mental health well-being. Suicide in Kentucky kills more people every year than automobile accidents. “(From: Edward L. Smith Jr. Published May 3, 2015 USA Today )
  • Mental Illness can affect persons of any age, race, religion or socioeconomic status.
  • One in four American adults experiences an episode of mental illness per year.
  • Individuals, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, with mental illness are those around us – our neighbors, our friends, family and co-workers.
  • Four million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers.
  • Mental health disorders account for more disability that any other illness, including cancer and heart disease reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).





  • MH1  High school data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey data. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  • MH2 Depressive episode data: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). 2013-2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Model-Based Prevalence Estimates (50 States and the District of Columbia). Table 26. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  • MH3 American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association.