New UTHealth Houston Teaching Psychiatric Hospital opens next month in partnership with state
Newswise – A new teaching psychiatric hospital, part of the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center, will combine the most advanced patient care, research and education when it opens next month at the Health Sciences Center in the University of Texas at Houston (UTHealth Houston) in partnership with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Texas Medical Center.
A ribbon cutting took place today. Patient services will begin in March.
The 253,000 square foot facility, which includes 264 new inpatient beds, was funded by the 85and 2017 Texas Legislative Session. The first years of operational funding for the hospital were approved by the 87and Legislature in 2021. The hospital building is named for the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center in thanks for a generous gift from the Dunn Foundation to strengthen the university’s behavioral health initiatives and fill critical gaps in services mental health care.
“We are truly grateful to our state leaders and legislators, our partners at HHSC, and the Dunn Foundation for their shared vision and transformative investment in behavioral health,” said UTHealth Houston President Giuseppe Colasurdo, MD. “This center is an integral part of our overall collaborative effort to ensure that all members of our community have access to the best mental health services.
The new University Psychiatric Hospital and nearby UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center combine to create the UTHealth Houston Behavioral Science Campus and the nation’s largest 538-bed university psychiatric hospital.
“Increasing access to mental and behavioral health care has long been a priority for Governor Abbott,” said Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott. “The State of Texas is proud to invest in resources, like the new UTHealth Houston Dunn Center for Behavioral Sciences, that will ensure Texans receive the best care available and help us better address mental and behavioral health challenges. “
The additional beds will allow UTHealth Houston to reach a larger region under its contract with HHSC, serving 29 contiguous counties extending from Houston. It is the first public psychiatric hospital to be built in the state in 25 years.
“This new, state-of-the-art facility is a much-needed investment in the community and will have a lasting impact on our ability to provide care to the most vulnerable Texans living with serious mental illness,” Texas HHSC said. Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young.
The facility accommodates multiple patient populations and treatment levels with access to medication management, group and individual therapy, and education and life skills training.
“This new academic psychiatric facility will help us expand our efforts to serve our community and alleviate the suffering of major mental illnesses by leveraging cutting-edge research, patient care and education around mental health,” said said Jair Soares, MD, PhD, the Pat R. Rutherford, Jr. Chair of Psychiatry at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and executive director of the new hospital.
“This new facility will allow us to create a more comprehensive continuum of care by providing staggered beds for patients who need more time in hospital than a typical acute care stay,” said Stephen Glazier, FACHE , COO of the new hospital. “We will also be partnering with our local mental health authority, the Harris Center, to provide a housing component to our continuum with the new supportive housing units they recently opened. By providing a comprehensive and integrated continuum of care, we hope to achieve much better outcomes for our patients.
Results of two recently published small studies conducted by Alia Warner, PhD, assistant professor; and Scott Lane, PhD, professor and vice chair of research in the Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, found that longer stays for some early or first-time patients with psychosis in a tapered setting resulted in lower hospital readmission rates and a lower likelihood of conviction for at least one crime after discharge.
The new facility, built by Vaughn Construction, includes support space for staff and student education and research, as well as a multipurpose therapy center. The architecture, interior design and landscaping have been designed by Perkins&Will to promote a calming atmosphere.
Two interior courtyards provide access to the exterior with walking paths, rest areas and gardens. Wall-sized murals, which include photographs of landmarks and landscapes in Greater Houston and Texas, were commissioned specifically for the hospital. The cafeteria includes a wall of inspirational nutrition sayings.
Natural light from large windows, sound-absorbing materials and lighting have been designed to reduce stress. Each unit also has a group room used for therapy sessions, art and music therapy, and recreation and relaxation. Rooms include chalkboards for a creative outlet for patients.
A large space on the fourth level for inpatient and outpatient services for people with treatment-resistant behavioral health conditions was designed with natural light and a mural of the Galveston scene.
One wing of the new building contains space for teaching and training new clinicians, including doctors, nurses, therapists and researchers.
“The new hospital building improves access to inpatient psychiatric care for our community,” said Lokesh Shahani, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and chief medical officer of the new hospital. “It gives us the opportunity to develop innovative and personalized ways to care for people with mental illness.”
Many people at the Texas State Capitol and across the state were instrumental in securing the building funds, including SB 1 author and sponsor Senator Jane Nelson and Rep. John Zerwas, MD , now executive vice-chancellor of health affairs for the university. of the Texas System, and heads of state Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and former Speaker of the House Joe Straus. Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD, and former Rep. Sarah Davis, who oversaw budget negotiations for health and human services programs, led the effort in their respective chambers to ensure funding was included. Other members of the Harris County delegation expressed their support.
The new building was also a project recommended by two interim committees prior to the session. After extensive study, visits and briefings, the Houston Project was recommended for this behavioral health funding by the Senate Interim Committee on Health and Human Services, headed by Senator Schwertner and vice-chaired by the Senator Lois Kolkhorst; and the House Select Committee on Mental Health, which was led by Rep. Four Price and included local Houston mental health champions Rep. Garnet Coleman and Rep. Senfronia Thompson.
In addition to the statewide leadership of Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and President Dade Phelan, lawmakers who played key roles in operational funding for these beds during the 87and Legislature was SB 1 and HB 2 author/sponsor Senator Nelson and Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD. In addition, the chief budget negotiators for health and human services programs on the conference committee were Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione assisted by Rep. Ann Johnson, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee of House Health and Social Services.
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