AUSTIN, Texas — Texas health officials have released the first allotment of funds from a $300 million effort to overhaul the state’s crumbling psychiatric hospitals.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Monday that it was releasing the first $48 million in funding that lawmakers approved last year to improve the 10 hospitals in the state system.
“A strong state psychiatric system is critically important to all Texans. This investment will benefit the state for generations,” said Charles Smith, the executive commissioner. “With this support from state leadership, we can update our facilities and be sure we are providing Texans with the very best mental health care possible.”
More than $15 million of the initial outlay will go toward creating a master plan to replace the 160-year-old Austin State Hospital, which has struggled with severe nursing shortages and policy violations on restraining patients.
State and mental health leaders are envisioning the new hospital that would be a brain health center and would work with private and public organizations to deliver individualized mental health and substance abuse services.
The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston will receive about $6 million of the first disbursement to build a new 300-bed public psychiatric hospital next to the university-run Harris County Psychiatric Center.
“This is a huge deal for Houston,” said Republican Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston. “It addresses an obvious need and has the potential to save taxpayer dollars by keeping patients out of jails, where they’re more expensive to house, don’t get adequate long-term psychiatric care and typically end up back on the streets.”
Most of the construction projects for the hospitals are expected to begin in the next two-year budget cycle, which begins in September 2019.