To ease chronic bottlenecks in countywide mental health services, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) is nearing completion of a new 16-bed home that will help people with mental illnesses transition back into the community after acute hospital stays.

The Victorian-style home, located at 3633 Chicago Av. in south Minneapolis, will provide short-term housing and treatment for adults who are stable enough to be discharged from a hospital psychiatric unit but who may need more therapy and social support before returning to their regular homes and jobs.

HCMC administrators said they expect that the new crisis home, which will begin accepting patients in July, will relieve some of the pressure on area hospital emergency departments and psychiatric wards by providing patients a place to go for short periods (three to 10 days) after they have stabilized and no longer need hospital-level care. A detailed study released last summer by the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation found that nearly one in five psychiatric patients in Minnesota remain in hospital beds even after they are stabilized, because of bureaucratic delays and a lack of less-intensive treatment options.

Dr. Eduardo Colon, chief of psychiatry at HCMC, estimates that at any given time, 15 to 30 percent of the hospital's psychiatric patients are stuck in hospital beds and delayed from discharge, often because they have nowhere to go in the community.

"We need a lot more places like this," Colon said, gesturing toward the new home's spacious living room and fireplace. "We have so many people who are having a crisis who do not need the restrictive and intensive environment of an acute psychiatric clinic."

The home is also part of a broader effort by HCMC to offer more humane treatment, and to engage community members to talk more openly and nonjudgmentally about mental illness.

With its walls lined with colorful paintings and photography by local artists, the home was designed to "break the institutional feel" of hospitals and traditional psychiatric facilities, said Will Hall, crisis residence manager for HCMC. Residents will have access to fresh meals cooked daily by area restaurants, as well as the opportunity to volunteer at a neighborhood garden across the street operated by the nonprofit Sisters' Camelot. They will also have access to regular individual and group therapy and will be connected with job training and, if necessary, chemical dependency treatment programs. The home is expected to serve up to 400 adults with mental illnesses a year, predominantly from Hennepin County, officials said.

Megan Bussen, 52, of Minneapolis, said she wished such a transition home had been available seven years ago, when she was suffering from a psychiatric crisis and twice attempted suicide. After a seven-week stay at HCMC, she returned home and to work almost immediately. Bussen said she ended up quitting her job as a dental hygienist after 17 years after walking out on a client while the person was still in a dental chair.

"When you've been in a psychiatric ward for days or weeks, you're not always ready just to walk back into your old life," said Bussen, who wrote a book about her struggle with depression and was among a crowd of community members at the home's open house Thursday. "You need a positive, healing environment, and that is exactly what this home would provide."

Chris Serres • 612-673-4308

Twitter: @chrisserres