/////UAMS Breaks Ground for Psychiatric Research Institute
UAMS Breaks Ground for Psychiatric Research Institute 2018-01-05T09:15:54+00:00

April 10, 2006 | Nell and Don Spears of Little Rock provided a surprise $1 million boost to the April 5 groundbreaking of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI).


 The PRI, to be located adjacent to the new UAMS hospital expansion on Hooper Drive, will be one of only nine institutions in the country to combine psychiatric research and education with inpatient and outpatient care.


G. Richard Smith, M.D., professor and Marie Wilson Howells chair of the Department of Psychiatry, recognized the Spears for their generosity and noted that the donation wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but was one they felt compelled to give after struggling with mental illness within their own family.


Other donors recognized during the ceremony were Fred and Louise Dierks for their $1.5 million gift and the Walker Family Charitable Trust Foundation for their $1.5 million gift. Smith pointed out that more than 300 donors, including nearly 100 percent of the department staff members, have also donated to the building.


Smith compared the five-year journey leading to the groundbreaking of the PRI to the journey many patients with mental illness and their families endure.


“Sometimes, like today, it is great and wonderful, but there were also long, hard times when you wonder if you will get through and if you will be able to endure,” Smith said. He shared with the crowd his experiences recently helping families at the Programs for Young Adults, many of whom had received poor care before finding the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS.


“They are the reason we need to build this building,” he said.


Don Munro, a member of the Department of Psychiatry Advisory Board and co-chairman of the capital campaign, shared his experiences having a family member with a mental illness. He said that while the problem has abated, the vulnerability remains. He encouraged the development of programs to help the many Arkansans with mental illness and their families.


As vocalist Diana Holzhauser sang, “This Land is Your Land,” attendees dug in the dirt with hand trowels and placed small Arkansas flags in the dirt to stake a claim for mental health care in Arkansas. The area of the groundbreaking was near the site where healing gardens will be placed, to be designed by award-winning garden designer P. Allen Smith.


When completed, the more than $27 million PRI will be one of the most innovative psychiatric treatment and research facilities in the nation. The facility, designed by The Wilcox Group architectural firm and built by CDI and East-Harding, is scheduled to be completed in early 2008.


The PRI is expected to be completed in 2008. It will allow easy access to a wide range of mental health care and will be the hub for outreach and referral programs that bring psychiatric care to Arkansans across the state.


Plans for the five-story building include:


  • The Fred and Louise Dierks Research Laboratories, which will incorporate studies into pharmaceutical trials, psychotherapy research and the development of new treatments for addictions and other disorders being studied by faculty in the department.

  • The Walker Family Clinic, which will consolidate many current outpatient services for adolescents, adults and the elderly. The clinic will provide specialty programs, including treatment for addictive disorders, eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. More than 50,000 patient visits to the clinic are expected each year.

  • A consolidation of the department’s student, residency and fellowship programs, bringing educators, clinicians and students together.

  • Two floors dedicated to inpatient care – bringing patients and their physicians into the same building with students and researchers, and guaranteeing a continuity of care and compassion.