Health officials officially opened the new state psychiatric hospital in Dallas on Monday, kicking off the countdown to opening the desperately needed mental health care option in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center will operate the 296-bed public facility, called Texas Behavioral Health Center at UT Southwestern, as part of an effort by Texas lawmakers to renovate and expand the hospital system of the state. The North Texas hospital will cost $482.5 million and will complete construction in 2025, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
The Texas Behavioral Health Center will primarily treat patients with acute mental health issues, which means their hospital stays will be relatively short. About 96 of the hospital’s beds will exist exclusively for child and adolescent patients following a $200 million donation from Children’s Health.
“This facility alone will not meet all of these needs, but it will be an important way to see that those who require at least short-term hospitalization are much more likely to access it,” said Dr. Daniel Podolsky, President of UT. South West. “It will be a focal point in trying to get patients to the most appropriate facility for the level of care they need.”
The need for access to mental health care has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third of American high school students have reported poor mental health during the pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dallas-Fort Worth’s struggle with adequate mental health care options began long before the pandemic. The state identified the need for a North Texas hospital in 2014; the area’s closest psychiatric facility, Terrell State Hospital, is about 45 minutes east of Dallas.
Located at Amelia Court in the Dallas Medical District, the new facility represents one of multiple facilities the state is working with other schools in the UT system to build or replace in Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
The new Dallas hospital is expected to relieve some of the pressure felt by other local facilities dealing with the overwhelming need for intensive mental health care. Patients presenting to emergency rooms and private facilities in mental health crisis often have to wait days or weeks for a public psychiatric hospital bed.
Inmates often face the worst of these wait times when trying to get care in a public facility. Earlier this year, Dallas County officials said 400 inmates deemed “unfit to stand trial” waited an average of 330 days for violent charges before being transferred. The county’s average wait time for a state psychiatric bed is longer than any other urban county in Texas, according to state data.
The Texas Behavioral Health Center will have several beds specifically for inmates, though the number has not yet been determined, said Scott Schalchlin, deputy executive commissioner of the Health and Specialty Care System for the Health Commission. and social services.
“We want to go through this legislative session and see if there’s anything else the legislature wants to give us,” Schalchlin said. “There may be other hospitals, there may not be, but once we have some sort of final picture, we can say, ‘OK, let’s assign this number of beds here. “”
The hospital will include a courtroom that will be used primarily by North Texas’ four major counties – Dallas, Collin, Denton and Tarrant – to facilitate the transfer of inmates to the hospital for treatment.
Another essential element of the new hospital is increased access to training for mental health students and professionals. A nationwide shortage of mental health professionals often leaves patients without options, and the situation is expected to only get worse.
“This center will support the pipeline of trained mental health professionals in our healthcare facilities. We want medical residents who train in Texas to stay in Texas, and this partnership with UT Southwestern will help us achieve that goal,” said Cecile Young, executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
A number of state officials, including State Senators Jane Nelson and Royce West and State Representative Toni Rose, attended the groundbreaking.
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