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Sacred Heart’s Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit turns 50

| News | Event

Photo of a portrait of Robert O. Johnson, M.D.

Contact: Anne Williams
PeaceHealth Media Relations
458-205-6847 or 541-554-9403

Fifty years ago this spring, leaders at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District, opened the doors to the region’s first inpatient psychiatric unit.

To coincide with National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, PeaceHealth will hold a celebration of this historic milestone:

Thursday, May 23, 11 a.m.
Cusack Room, 4th floor, Support Services Building, 770 E. 11th Ave., Eugene
PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at University District
Media are welcome—however, this is not a public event.

Named for a Sacred Heart psychiatrist who pioneered mental health services in Lane County, the 22-bed R.O. Johnson Wing offered intensive, specialized treatment in a safe, healing, non-institutional environment. For individuals experiencing an acute behavioral health crisis, the Johnson Unit, as it came to be known, was the only treatment option in the region.

The Johnson Unit, which expanded over the years to 36 beds, served as a beacon of hope for this patient population for many years.

Five years ago, PeaceHealth invested $13.2 million in the inpatient behavioral health unit by relocating it from the aging building on the east side of the Sacred Heart, University District, campus to the newly remodeled first floor of the nearby Support Services Building.

The new unit was designed, built and furnished with patient safety, privacy and healing top of mind. All 35 patient rooms are private and adaptable based on patient needs. The facility features two private outdoor garden areas, exercise equipment and an art room. The unit’s layout, along with a state-of-the-art video monitoring system, created a much safer environment for both patients and staff.

As was the case 50 years ago, PeaceHealth’s Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit is the only facility in the region that provides this level of care for patients in crisis, serving approximately 900 patients a year. The average length of stay is between eight and nine days.

“The inpatient unit at Sacred Heart has saved lives and restored hope for thousands of patients and their families, thanks to the vision and commitment of our leaders 50 years ago and the compassion and skill of the medical staff and caregivers who have worked there,” said Alicia Beymer, interim vice president of operations and director of home care services at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District.

Over the last decade, PeaceHealth has worked with local, state and federal partners to bolster existing programs and fill service gaps, with the aim of providing a full continuum of care for people with behavioral health needs. Additions include:

  • Transition Team: This unique, decade-old program was created in partnership with Lane County Behavioral Health to support the recovery of patients discharging from the inpatient unit and help them integrate back into the community. The program includes field trips, social activities, communal meals, family support and life-skills counseling.
  • Young Adult Services: PeaceHealth Medical Group’s Youth Hub and award-winning Early Assessment and Support Alliance emphasize early intervention aimed at halting the progression of an illness. In addition to outpatient therapy, these teams provide career and life-skills coaching, peer support, art therapy and outreach in local schools.
  • Partial Hospitalization/Intensive Outpatient programs: Started in 2015, these programs provide high-level psychiatric treatment to patients who need an intense course of therapy. They offer group therapy, individual counseling, art therapy, movement therapy, chronic pain management, relapse prevention and family support counseling.
  • Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic: In 2017 PeaceHealth Medical Group received a federal grant to pilot an innovative program that integrates outpatient behavioral health services with substance use disorder treatment, peer support and primary care. The program, which also takes care beyond clinic walls to those who need it, served 6,000 people in 2018.

“The scope of services we provide today is unique among Oregon hospitals, and underscores our deep and enduring commitment to this core tenet of the PeaceHealth Mission,” Beymer added. “We believe  healthcare for the body and the mind must be given equal priority and be fully integrated.”

Note to media: Alicia Beymer and Kris Kalman, director of Behavioral Health Services, are available for interviews either before or during the event. Current and former caregivers with the inpatient behavioral health team are also available.

Parking: If you’d like to attend, please let me know and we can reserve a space for you in the surface lot on the south side of the Support Services Building, 770 E. 11th Ave.

About PeaceHealth: PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a nonprofit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, a multi-specialty medical group practice with more than 1,200 physicians and providers, and 10 medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest. In 1890, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded what has become PeaceHealth. The Sisters shared expertise and transferred wisdom from one medical center to another, always finding the best way to serve the unmet need for healthcare in their communities. PeaceHealth is the legacy of the founding Sisters and continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its Mission. Visit us online at