From the street, barely visible through the willow trees, the single-story building looks pretty much the same as it did five years ago, when it was closed by Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, leaving the county without an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
Set far back from the constant hum of traffic, the facility at 1287 Fulton Road has a new paint job and new landscaping.
What you can't see is that on the inside, this crucial missing piece of the regional mental health network has been brought back to life.
Slated to open soon — state licensing inspections are currently underway — the psychiatric hospital ultimately will feature 95 inpatient beds for adults, seniors and adolescents.
For the past five years, local residents requiring inpatient psychiatric services have had to go outside the county, primarily to mental health facilities operated by Marin General Hospital and St. Helena Hospital in Vallejo.
"We're really delighted. Having it here means that our clients will be recovering in the community," said Rita Scardaci, director of the county's Department of Public Health.
About 60 mental health care professionals — including nurses, doctors and support staff — will be working in the facility, which will treat people with a number of conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression.
The hospital is expected to initially open two units, for adults and adolescents, each equipped with about 20beds. Another unit for seniors is expected to open in the future as the need grows.
County officials said they are particularly excited about services for seniors and adolescents. There has not been inpatient services for teens in Sonoma County since the mid-1980s.
The new state-of-the-art psychiatric facility is owned by Southern California-based Aurora Behavioral Health Care, which bought the property in late 2009 and has invested more than $4 million to renovate the campus since June 2011.
Aurora, a for-profit private hospital, operates seven other hospitals around the country, including four facilities in Southern California, one in Chicago and two in Arizona.
The Santa Rosa hospital was originally supposed to open sometime in 2010, within a year of Aurora's purchase of the building, but construction delays repeatedly have pushed back the opening date.
The work required to bring the facility up to current state and federal standards for health care facilities has been extensive. The entire building had to be gutted down to the frame before renovations could begin.
To oversee the hospital, Aurora brought in Ken Meibert, a veteran CEO of psychiatric facilities, including Sierra Vista Hospital in Sacramento, which he ran for nine years.
Meibert said Sierra Vista was constructed by the same builder who erected the Fulton Road facility and the two structures have nearly identical footprints. That insight has been helpful in planning the resurrection of the Santa Rosa hospital, he said.
"I know safety features. I know things that need to be built in," Meibert said.
In recent weeks, Meibert has been giving tours of the new facility to various interested parties, including county officials and local law enforcement. Santa Rosa Police Lt. John Nolan toured the new hospital last week and was impressed with what he saw.
"It was as if it was a brand-new facility," he said, adding that the last time he visited the hospital was more than a decade ago, as a police officer responding to an emergency call of a person acting out and tearing up furniture.