In a proactive effort not only to dramatically grow the organization, but to do so in a way that distinguishes it as a unique mental health and wellness agency, CHOICE of NY has recently taken over a 6,500 square foot space in White Plains, NY. Opened in January, 2015 as an adjunct to its New Rochelle headquarters, the White Plains office sets CHOICE up to be able to serve more than 1,500 new clients. As of March 31st, the caseload at the site already exceeded 300. “We are trying to do with our physical plan the same things we are doing with our services and programs,” said Guy Fessenden, the Executive Director of CHOICE of NY. We want people to come into our place and immediately feel welcomed and good about the steps they are taking. We want them to look at our space and say ‘hey… a lot of thought and a lot of effort have gone into this place… for ME and to make ME feel like I belong here.’ It’s a way of telling people right off the bat that we care about them. We care about the environment they exist in and we care about them as whole people. We do not present the sterile, bureaucratic office space they often walk into.”
CHOICE solicited the services of designer Patrick Fagan who, donating much of his time, worked with CHOICE to turn the basement office space into what currently looks and feels like a beautiful, outdoor bistro you might find in Europe. Fagan says that he wanted to create ”an inviting and friendly environment… to feel almost like you’re taking a nice walk outside rather than entering a mental health agency.” It’s designed to be relaxing and fun, with vibrant awnings, quaint trellises, flower boxes, and a meditative bird bath. Fagan also built a set of faux windows to the outside world and filled them with pictures of tranquil nature scenes.
Clients coming off the elevator to the basement floor are greeted by the “Good Outcomes Wall.” The wall is a testimonial, full of stories from real clients about what CHOICE has helped them accomplish. It’s an artistic, self-expression by those who actually benefit from the services that CHOICE has to offer. “We wanted them to have a voice,” Said Fessenden. “To be able to express themselves creatively, especially since the arts are an important part of our socialization programs, and tell their own stories. It’s a very powerful message board to welcome folks into our space.”
The next phase of the build out will consist of a mental wellness center so that clients can come to CHOICE and take advantage of services that they often can’t find inside or outside the boundaries of the mental health system. “We want to give our clients opportunities they often are not presented with. Our wellness center will give them a place to come to feel better about themselves and work on not only their minds, but their bodies. We will have all sorts of programs like yoga and meditation, and social workshops to address a variety of personal well-being issues,” said Fessenden.
The development of the White Plains facility is being done to reflect the true spirit of the core values of CHOICE of NY: To provide greater, better, and more innovative care for our clients than they can get anywhere else.