$120M psychiatric hospital opens in Queens

An opening event was held at the new An opening event was held at the new Inpatient Psychiatric Pavilion at Zucker Hillside Hospital. (Dec. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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A new $120 million psychiatric hospital with 115 beds for inpatient care is open to treat adolescents and adults suffering from depression, emotional and personality disorders, dementia and acute mental illness.

"This new facility is a place where patients are cared for with dignity and respect," said Joseph Schulman, executive director of The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, at the facility's official opening Friday.

The 130,000-square-foot building replaces 1940s-style cottages that were scattered across the hospital campus. The two-story building will centralize all services for better coordination, Schulman said. Construction began in September 2010.

"We have spacious accommodations with program rooms that offer space for therapy and social activities. We have a beautiful dining room area that is drenched in sunshine," Schulman said.

"There will be quiet spaces to have private time to read and reflect and reserved for self-healing," he said. There also are family-style living rooms for visitation, he said. "The whole environment has a residential home feeling for a patient's recovery."

Patient rooms are private, or semiprivate, and will be sectioned off with an adolescent unit and a unit for geriatric patients who have Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.

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Another unit will be reserved for patients with depression and other "affective disorders," Schulman said. A women's unit and an "electroconvulsive therapy suite" also will be new to the hospital campus.

Robert Abitbol, 21, of West Hempstead, said the new building will enhance his recovery. He has been undergoing treatment there for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Abitbol, a civil engineering student, said he has suffered from the disorder "all my life."

But the illness became acute several years ago when he was attending college. "I would sit at the computer and constantly repeat myself by touching the keyboard for eight hours repetitively. It was mental torture."

Today "I feel like a whole new person," Abitbol said at Friday's opening. "I think people are shamed when they have a problem with a mental health disorder. Once you admit you need help, that's the first step to getting your life back."

Cathy LeMaire, 61, of Huntington, is a patient of the facility's electroconvulsive therapy unit, where she received shock treatments for her depression.

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"I had severe depression and had different treatments and anti-depressants, and nothing seemed to work," she said. "I was hesitant to do the ECT therapy because of what I saw in the movies and in television, but it worked. My life is back."

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