Description of innovation

The Green Unit is a pilot reintegration program of the National Health Service, aimed at mentally ill people. The program is based on the utilization of the surrounding area of the Hospital and its maintenance as a green space for the surrounding residential area. The program has developed pioneering and innovative activities for the social rehabilitation of the mentally ill and patients are involved in activities such as recycling paper, plastic, metal, etc. To date, more than 400 patients have participated in the program, 33 of which, in 2021. The main results to date have been the acquisition of new skills by patients and in some cases reintegration into the labor market, as well as the contribution to maintaining good mental health.

Reasons for innovation

Innovation was developed to address the major challenges facing mental health management, to prevent relapse and re-admission of patients to hospital. The main targets the innovation handles are: a) The lack of socialization and collective cooperation of patients b) The need to develop patients' social skills c) their reintegration into the labor market and society.

Innovation objectives

The main objectives of the "Green Unit" innovation are: 1) increasing the recreation time of the mentally ill, 2) reducing the number of same patients re-admitted and avoiding relapses, 3) improving the social access of patients with new social skills, 4) increase job skills and reintegration into the labor market.

Innovation results

In 2021, 33 people were employed in the Unit who had been hospitalized in the past and now live in the Community, or in Psychosocial Rehabilitation Units. The program engages patients creatively for about 4 hours a day, and to date has helped 200 patients acquire new skills such as: a) Social skills, communication and collaboration skills b) Construction skills, artistic skills. Additionally, 20 patients were assisted and entered the labor market. Research is currently underway, which assesses the exact contribution of the program in reducing the re-admission of patients to the Hospital and in preventing relapses.

Innovation is currently at dissemination phase

Design stage

The initial design was carried out by an employee of the organization, who is also the person in charge of the program, with a specialization in Forester-Environmentalist and an employee of a technical specialty, operator of agricultural tractors. For the formation and proper functioning of the working groups, in which patients participate, research has been carried out by a research team consisting of the head of the institution, mental health professionals and students, who have been presented at conferences. Indicatively, the following works are mentioned on which the innovation is based:

• Kinigopoulou V. et all, 2021. Cow manure vermicomposting and an initial assessment of the vermicompost effect on the production of organic early crops vegetables in greenhouse, 8th International Conference on Environmental Management, Engineering, Planning and Economics (CEMEPE 2021) and SECOTOX Conference.

• Kontos K. et all, 2021. The effects of horticultural therapy on the functionality of psychotic patients employed in the Green Unit of the Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki Greece, European congress of psychiatry, Florence Italy

• Kontos K., 2020. "The beneficial effect of horticultural therapy on patients of the Green Unit of the Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki", 28th Hellenic Congress of Psychiatry October 29 - November 1, 2020, Thessaloniki (pp. 118).

In 2021, the action "implementation of the circular economy, in the integrated management and utilization of organic bio-waste of the P.N.Th." is planned, in collaboration with the head of the specialty Forester-Environmentalist with the Department of Rural Surveyors of AUTh as well as with research center ELGO DIMITRA and concerns: 1) The utilization of cow manure as a soil conditioner for the production of organic vegetables. 2) Collection of plant biomass (twigs, leaves, grass, tree fruits, straw, etc.) from the plot of P.N.TH and application of composting in the greenhouse facilities of P.N.TH. The management of the collection (coffee buckets), transfer to the special cells, will be done by the head of the Green Unit of the P.N.Th. while the analysis and quality control by the accredited laboratory of "ELGO DIMITRA".

Application stage

Every year, a decision is issued to approve the operation of the rehabilitation program "Green Unit" by the Ministry of Health. For the implementation, the necessary supplies were provided (truck, machines, etc.) and tools of the Hospital were utilized. Following an interest from patients, the program developed its function by creating working groups to enhance "occupational therapy", creative employment, training and job opportunities. These are guided by the 2 employees of the organization who are employed in the program (PE Forester Environmentalist and DE Agricultural Tractor Operator). The working groups concern: Management groups for protection & development of outdoor environment, recycling, production, creative employment, music, dance therapy as well as support groups, such as psychoeducation -group psychotherapy, counseling empowerment & social skills.

Dissemination stage

Innovation is disseminated within the Agency through the use of communication networks, presentations, information and service notes, distribution of printed material, etc. Also, through the website, the use of social media, the activities of the Press Office, participation in conferences and workshops, etc.. the innovation is also spread in the external environment of the Organization. It is worth noting that the GREEN UNIT- DNTH, in the awards of the Healthcare Organization (Business Awards 2021), in which participated Hospitals, Private clinics and Diagnostic Centers, was honored with the BRONZE award for the category "3.4 Environmental Sensitivity".


During its operation, the Green Unit collaborated with public and private bodies such as local authorities, universities (AUTh, Department of Medicine, Department of Psychology, School of Forestry & Natural Environment, School of Agriculture, Department of Rural Surveyors, International University of Greece) , Media, Schools, Hospitals, Institutions & Associations, for the joint regulation of environmental issues and the development of corresponding joint programs. Often the programs are reciprocal with donations that contribute and improve the quality of life of patients participating in the Green Unit. Also, in the context of planning the "implementation of the circular economy, in the integrated management and utilization of organic bio-waste of the P.H.Th." .

Financing and costs

The innovation is financed by itself through the budget of the institution. Also, for the planning and implementation of the innovation, 2 employees of the body who are directly subordinated to the Administration were employed, full time. For the operation of the innovation 2 employees are employed full time.

Challenges and solutions during design, testing and implementation

The biggest challenge we face are staff shortages. The need for new staff, and in particular an Agricultural Technologist and a Guide for the efficient operation of the working groups, is addressed with the overtime work of employees, as well as with the participation of undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as volunteers through Koin.S.Ep. "ARGO".

Assessment - description of the necessary conditions for success and sustainability of innovation

The effective operation of the program requires 4 full time employees, who will coordinate the working groups. A necessary condition for the continuation of the operation and the viability of the program is the existence of a specific legislative framework that ensures and secures the operation of the rehabilitation programs. At the same time, it is necessary to approve the financing of the program with the own means of the institution by the Ministry of Health every year.

Experiences, thoughts, findings

Participation in the working groups of the program enhances creativity, socialization, responsible and voluntary employment, the acquisition of teamwork, the development of skills of the mentally ill. In this way, the "Green Unit" program contributes to the improvement of patients' mental health through the development and maintenance of a therapeutic environment.

Innovation award

THE GREEN UNIT- PSNTH, at the awards of the Healthcare Organization (Business Awards 2021), in which participated Hospitals, Private clinics and Diagnostic Centers, was honored with the BRONZE award for the category "3.4 Environmental Sensitivity", as a practice that combines mental health care with the environment and the circular economy.

Institution: Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki, G.H.Th. "G. Papanikolaou"

Level of government: Local

Policy area: Health

Design Year: 2021 redesign

Type of Innovation: Process design and redesign

Innovation Stage: Dissemination

Beneficiaries: Special category: Recipients of mental health services

Number of beneficiaries: 33 reintegration patients in 2021

Sources of Funding: Own means

Innovation Award: Healthcare Business Awards 2021







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