By Kristen Bole
The striking new home for UC San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will radically transform the clinical setting, enhance patient care, training and research, and offer a unique and powerful array of mental and physical health services for patients at a time when the nation is confronting unprecedented challenges and ongoing stigma associated with mental health treatment.
Scheduled to open this fall, the 150,000-square-foot Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, designed by ZGF Architects with input from more than 100 UCSF faculty and staff, will be a state-of-the-art facility that co-locates mental and physical health care. Adjacent to UCSF’s Mission Bay campus at 675 18th St., this fully integrated facility will be one of the few in the country that brings together outpatient mental health care for patients of all ages, nation-leading programs in psychiatry and psychology training, and clinical research on brain disorders.
The building will enable collaborative research and clinical care among members of UCSF’s departments of pediatrics, neurology, radiology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, anesthesiology, and obstetrics/gynecology, all under one roof. It also features a Child, Teen and Family Center that will provide a welcoming environment so young visitors will feel more comfortable as they receive world-class mental health care.
Supported by a gift of nearly $60 million from philanthropists John Pritzker and Lisa Stone Pritzker, longtime supporters of the university, the new building is named in honor of John’s sister, Nancy Friend Pritzker, who died by suicide at age 24 during a depressive episode in 1972.
“Nancy was a brilliant, funny, beautiful young woman who struggled with mental health,” said John Pritzker. “Like so many other families, ours didn’t talk about those struggles, before or after her death. When she passed, it was like a steel door slammed shut. While times have changed somewhat, stigma and mental health are still very closely linked. Naming the building after Nancy honors her memory and begins to lift the veil on her story, every story like hers, and the psychiatric field itself.”
Pritzker added, “The building’s central location and proximity to transportation hubs, and its innovative design and expanded research capabilities, will provide unrivaled access to care and elevate both the perception and quality of psychiatric care, all of which are especially important given the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.”
Stigma’s profound national impact
Some 50 years after Nancy Friend Pritzker’s death, mental health continues to be a national health concern. Nearly 1 in 5 American adults lives with a mental health disorder, while 1 in 6 children between the age of six and 17 has such a condition. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic and social impacts have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Stigma continues to have a profound societal impact, leading to barriers to treatment, inadequate reimbursement for mental health care and lagging funding for research, and negative attitudes toward psychiatry. Outpatient psychiatry facilities have also not reflected the financial investment seen in other specialties.
As a volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital’s psychiatric floor in 2003-2004, Lisa Pritzker’s own experiences deeply shaped her views on the importance of access to mental health care, particularly for children and teens.
“Early on, I witnessed adult patients receiving the best of care, but I also saw traumatized children and teens who had a foreboding experience just navigating that same physical environment,” Lisa Pritzker said. She saw young patients waiting for psychiatric care in spaces that were old, cramped, poorly lit, chaotic and scary to children who had been previously traumatized.
Lisa said, “Everyone should have access to mental health services, especially our most vulnerable kids, teens, and families who deserve a calm and positive space to get the support they need. The Child, Teen and Family Center is exactly the vision I had, a welcoming environment where children and teens and young adults feel safe and comfortable and where everyone will be treated with dignity and respect. From clinicians to researchers to patients, the light-filled and accessible spaces, child-friendly entrance, and easy-to-navigate hallways say, ‘Welcome. Everyone, regardless of life circumstances, is treated with sensitivity and compassion.”
Matthew W. State, MD, PhD, chair and Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF, said, “This is a truly remarkable gift and opportunity. It is rare in academic psychiatry to be handed a ‘blank sheet of paper,’ able to work with our donors, architects, developers and our outstanding faculty and staff across multiple departments to envision what a state-of-the art facility for brain health research, outpatient care delivery and education should look like.”
Designed to optimize patient care
The Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building was designed to optimize patient care, drive research across a variety of disciplines and disorders, and destigmatize mental health care through thoughtful design to both remove potential barriers to and normalize mental health care. With a five-story light-filled atrium, rooftop garden accessible to patients and staff, an extensive photographic art program created by groundbreaking artist Richard Misrach, and a community-based youth art program, the building will convey hope for patients and families and demonstrate the university’s integral role in and commitment to the community.
It will also house an auditorium and conference center where leading researchers and experts will convene to advance the field; dedicated space for psychedelics research; state-of-the-art facilities to study emotion and physiology; and a neuroimaging suite with cutting-edge technology to research novel treatment approaches, especially for those who have not responded to standard interventions. The facility also contains a sleep clinic, a gym for evaluating children with neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as a therapeutic kitchen and dedicated treatment space for the UCSF Eating Disorders Program.
The project is the culmination of a long-standing vision to integrate physical and mental health at UCSF by eliminating arbitrary boundaries that have isolated psychiatry and the behavioral sciences from other medical disciplines that also advance brain health and treat brain disorders.
“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Lisa and John,” said State, “we have been able not only to create what will be a transformative building for UCSF psychiatry and behavioral sciences, but one that we hope will send a powerful message against stigma far beyond the Bay Area.”
- KGO-TV: A look inside UCSF's massive new mental health care facility
- San Francisco Business Times: How a billionaire family's tragedy inspired a new era for mental health at UCSF
- San Francisco Chronicle: Hyatt Hotel heir who lost his sister to suicide gives $60 million to UCSF to help transform mental health care
- Forbes: Billionaire John Pritzker donating nearly $60 million for mental health at UCSF
- J Weekly: $60 million gift from Pritzkers builds UCSF family psychiatry center
About UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
The UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, with a mission focused on research (basic, translational, clinical), teaching, patient care, and public service.
UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences conducts its clinical, educational, and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital; UCSF Medical Centers at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay, and Mount Zion; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; the San Francisco VA Health Care System; UCSF Fresno; and numerous community-based sites around the San Francisco Bay Area.
About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.
The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.