Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens First Austin’s Playroom at UPMC Western Psychiatric

Updated on March 20, 2022

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and the Mario Lemieux Foundation have opened Austin’s Playroom in the hospital’s child and adolescent unit, the first playroom in a behavioral health inpatient setting.  

The playroom is a therapeutic, inviting space for patients to encourage play and relaxation. The colorful room includes sensory furniture and games suitable for young children and teens, and a first-of-its-kind interactive media art projection system with therapy-based games.

“We’re thrilled to have a unique Austin’s Playroom personalized specifically for our patients,” said Deborah Brodine, president of UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “A lot of thought, planning and research went into developing this space so that we can better serve the kids and families who need inpatient care. We know that this calming and playful space will provide staff with new opportunities to engage, therapeutically, with our young patients in innovative and exciting ways.”

Foundation and hospital leaders gathered recently to celebrate the new Austin’s Playroom with a small ribbon-cutting event. Guests included Nathalie Lemieux, vice president of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Gabriela Citrone, of the Citrone 33 Foundation, Camellia Herisko, vice president of operations at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, Diane Hupp, president of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Rachel Petrucelli, president of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and Deborah Brodine.

“We are so pleased to open the 41st Austin’s Playroom,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “Playroom openings are always a dream, and the opening of our new playroom at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is no exception. We are excited to make a difference in pediatric behavioral health care treatment.”

Lemieux also offered her gratitude for the support of the Citrone 33 Foundation and stressed the importance of local partners coming together to care for kids and families who are struggling with mental health.

Austin’s Playrooms was established as a result of Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their infant son, Austin. In 1996, Austin was born profoundly premature and spent 71 days in neonatal intensive care. While caring for Austin, there was little to engage his sisters, who were both toddlers at the time. It was then that Mario and Nathalie realized a need for playrooms and began their plan to establish Austin’s Playrooms.

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