Houston reportedly on track to open the largest behavioral health hospital in the country

A portion of Houston's Medical Center can be seen from the campus of Rice University Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

With initial funding from the state granted, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston will reportedly soon begin work on a new psychiatric hospital, which, once completed, will be the largest in the U.S.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center said it will combine existing facilities with new ones to create a larger, updated facility in a statement published on its website:

The UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health is planned to include acute, subacute, and residential treatment and is estimated to cost $125 million. With up to a projected additional 300 beds, combined with the 274 existing acute care beds in the UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center, this facility would create the largest academic behavioral health hospital in the country.

A main goal of the new facility will reportedly reduce the pressure on county resources from patients who suffer with psychiatric issues and need to be repeatedly admitted into care facilities.

UT Health’s statement claims emergency rooms in Harris County are strained, noting further how the jail system is becoming “the de facto behavioral health care provider[s]” for the county area:

“Our intention is to create an environment that promotes safety for both patients and staff, helps to reduce stress and anxiety and enables patients to maintain their privacy and dignity,” Steve Glazier, COO of UTHealth HCPC, provided in a statement.

Publications, like the Chronicle, the Texas Observer and the Houston Press, all claimed Houston’s mental health services are far from adequate, going as far as to say those suffering with mental health issues may face trouble finding help outside the Harris County jail system.

Harris County piloted a program in recent years to help reduce the rate of return to facilities or jail among those with mental health issues to try and curb this reportedly problem, with some reports showing success.

County officials said they partnered with UT Health for the study, and the pilot’s success appears to be one of the main reasons their new campus received funding.

UT’s current psychiatric center’s waiting list is around 40 people at all times, according to the institution’s website, but there is some hope the new campus could ease some of these admittance backlog problems.

“This funding will allow us to build a transformative model of care that will go to the very core of treating behavioral health illnesses. It will help us make a vital difference for these patients and their loved ones,” Dr. Jair Soares said in an interivew.

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