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Shovels put in ground for new psych facility

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Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks broke ground last week on a $125 million inpatient pavilion that hospital administrators said will lead to better treatment of the facility’s psychiatric patients.

The psychiatric hospital is a part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

Dr. Joseph Schulman, executive director of Zucker Hillside, called the groundbreaking “a tremendous milestone for our patients ... and for all the communities that we serve.”

The pavilion will replace old and, according to hospital administrators, dilapidated cottages that were first built on the campus in 1941.

In place of the cottages will be 115 patient beds — 57 for geriatric patients, 37 for adults and 21 for teens — a move that will increase the hospital’s inpatient capacity by 13 beds.

North Shore-LIJ CEO Michael Dowling said the $125 million pavilion is the biggest project undertaken on the Zucker campus since 1927.

Dowling said construction is expected to be completed in July 2012 and he believes the pavilion will become the “epicenter and a model for how to treat and diagnose people with mental illness.”

North Shore-LIJ is the second largest provider of mental health services in the state, behind the government and in front of New York Presbyterian, Dowling said. He noted that 50 percent of people will suffer a behavioral health problem at some point in their life.

Dowling said the project is sorely needed, calling the current Zucker Hillside facilities “so abhorrently bad — there is no sugar-coating it.”

Richard Goldstein, chairman of North Shore-LIJ’s board of directors, said he is embarrassed the cottages are not “up to the standards of the health system.”

Donald Zucker, a North Shore-LIJ trustee who along with his wife Barbara have their names on the hospital, said his son, who worked for ´╗┐an EMT, once told him he should take his name off the building because of the quality of the cottages.

Dr. John Kane, chairman of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside, said he was excited to see the project move forward.

“Now we’ll be able to treat our patients in a comfortable, new state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

Mina Shin, a 21-year-old Bayside resident who was treated at Zucker Hillside in May 2009 for a first episode of psychosis, said she cannot wait to see the final results of the construction.

“I’m just really excited that they’re doing this because there will be more help for people like me,” said Shin, whose condition has been in remission and now attends SUNY Buffalo. “I’m very excited to see it.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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