UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute Unveils Therapeutic Playground

By David Robinson

The outdoor playground was designed specifically for children with behavioral problems, and will be used by those being treated at the only inpatient facility of its kind in Arkansas.

“The playground and its therapeutic environment will be an important component integrated into the assessment process. Every child benefits from playing, learning to get along with others and experiencing themselves outside,” said Molly Gathright, M.D., medical director of the Psychiatric Research Institute’s children’s inpatient unit.

Helping to celebrate the new playground were Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe, Maj. Craig Heathscott of the Arkansas National Guard, and the “Singing Fingers,” a group of young performers from the Arkansas School for the Deaf.

G. Richard Smith, M.D., director of the Psychiatric Research Institute, and UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., welcomed guests and thanked those who donated the funds to build the playground.

A reception in the P. Allen Smith-designed Healing Garden at the Psychiatric Research Institute followed the ceremony.

Members of the Arkansas Army National Guard recently worked alongside volunteers from the Psychiatric Research Institute to assemble and install the playground equipment. The unit was specially designed by Cunningham Associates of Charlotte, N.C. A rubberized surface covers the playground’s 1,800 square feet to ensure patients’ safety.

Gathright said patients and their parents will use the playground three times a day, supervised by the unit’s trained medical staff. “The playground will give children a place to work not only on such things as gross motor skills development but also social and interaction skills in an alternative setting,” she said.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or