Construction will begin this summer on a new Houston psychiatric facility that offers 240 beds as well as internal and external courtyards, visual and physical access to the outdoors, a therapy mall and other features designed to reduce agitation in patients and encourage healing.
The UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health is a joint project, owned by Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) and operated by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Slated to open at the end of 2021, the facility will be the first public mental health hospital built in Houston in more than three decades. Once complete, it will be the largest behavioral health academic center in the nation.
A major focus of the new facility, designed by architectural firm Perkins+Will, is reducing rapid readmissions and providing more comprehensive care for patients with four or more hospital stays each year.
“This is the beginning of a sizable investment in the mental health of Texans,” said Mike Maples, the HHS deputy executive commissioner for the health and specialty care system, during a formal announcement Friday that drew media, UTHealth employees and state officials.
The facility will be built with $125 million in state funds approved by the 2017 Legislative Budget Board as part of a broader initiative to improve behavioral health access across the state.
The design for the new hospital features two buildings connected by a bridge and loaded with natural light and communal spaces. The campus, which includes the new hospital and UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC), will be built adjacent to HCPC, off South MacGregor Way, in an area now being used as a parking lot.
“The reason we’re referring to this as the Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health is that that’s what we’re hoping to actually create once this is finished,” said Stephen Glazier, COO of UTHealth HCPC, who will also oversee the new hospital. “We have a lot of funding for acute care beds. And we have a lot of funding for outpatient therapy and case management. But there’s an array of services between those that are really important for patients that have just not been funded over the years and they’ve kind of disappeared. That gap in services causes us to get less than better outcomes with our patients than we know we can get and we would like to get. This building will be the start of filling in that gap.”
UTHealth President Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., compared the statewide commitment to improving mental health to the devotion to finding treatments and cures for cancer that helped launch The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1941.
“Now it’s time for mental health, for behavioral health, to take … support from the legislative session, from the community, and develop a target to treat and cure millions and millions of patients who nobody knows how to deal with today,” Colasurdo said. “It’s our responsibility collectively to look at the history of MD Anderson and make it happen here.”
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