SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — UCSF is welcoming its first patients to the Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, a one-of-a-kind treatment center that aims to redefine mental health services and make a bold statement against stigma.

The five-story, 150,000-square-foot building represents a visible departure from older psychiatric facilities that are located in secluded places with obscured facades.

“We wanted to design a building that defied outdated psychiatric institutional models that separated mental from physical health and perpetuated a culture of shame,” said Dr. Matthew State, UCSF professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Situated adjacent to UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, the new building’s central location, light-filled atrium, and interior transparency were chosen and designed to convey openness to the community outside.

The lobby of the Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry building is seen. (Image courtesy UCSF)

“We created a place with welcoming entrances and engaging gathering spaces that will draw in patients and families. It will give them access to light and nature, integrate physical and mental health services, and allow them to focus on healing in a low-stress environment,” State said.

The Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building is the culmination of a vision for bringing together physical and mental health. It promotes collaborative research across psychiatry, psychology, neurology, neurosurgery, radiology, pediatrics, anesthesiology and obstetrics/gynecology — all under one roof.

The building, located at 675 18th St., was made possible by a gift of nearly $60 million from philanthropists John Pritzker and Lisa Pritzker, longtime supporters of UCSF. It is named in honor of John Pritzker’s sister, Nancy Friend Pritzker, who died by suicide at age 24 during a depressive episode in 1972.

State said Nancy Friend Pritzker was a vibrant and brilliant young woman who experienced severe mental illness. “Nancy’s legacy will live on with our patients seeking treatment here, as well as with the clinicians, researchers and educators working to better our understanding and treatment of mental health issues,” State said.

A family walks by the new UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, on 18th Street, between 3rd and Tennessee, in the Dogpatch Neighborhood, in San Francisco. (Image courtesy UCSF)

John Pritzker said, “Our hope is that with better therapies resulting from cross-disciplinary collaboration, tailored to each patient, we will end the silent suffering of patients with mental illnesses.”

Designed by ZGF Architects with input from more than 100 UCSF faculty and staff, the building includes the Child, Teen and Family Center, with its own child-friendly entrance, rooftop garden accessible to patients and staff, museum-quality art by photographer Richard Misrach alongside a community-based youth art program, therapeutic kitchen for families of patients with eating disorders, and gym to evaluate children with neurodevelopmental disorders. 

The building will have two ultrasound machines that deliver noninvasive ultrasonic beams to targets deep within the brain, which may alleviate depression in patients who have not responded to medication.

(Image courtesy UCSF)

The timing of the opening of the new building coincides with “an unprecedented mental health crisis” due to the COVID pandemic, said Lisa Pritzker, whose commitment to mental health was shaped by depression in her own family.

“There need not be any stigma or shame in seeking mental health care. It is critical that people of all ages and backgrounds have access to the best psychiatric care,” she said.