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Published on June 21, 2024
Texas Allocates $1.5 Billion for Mental Health Infrastructure, Announces Plans for Seven New Psychiatric HospitalsSource: Texas Health & Human Services Commission

Texas is pushing forward with a major expansion in its mental health infrastructure, with a $1.5 billion governmental injection set to kickstart construction on seven new psychiatric hospital projects throughout Texas. As reported by the Texas Tribune, this initiative comes as a response to a growing mental health crisis and a worrying uptick in the number of forensic patients—those within the criminal justice system deemed incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Details of the construction plans were made public through a press release issued by Governor Greg Abbott, who last year signed the legislation that unlocked the substantial funding. “These new state hospital projects will help ensure that Texans experiencing a mental health issue have access to mental health professionals and high-quality treatments to address their needs,” Abbott stated. The focus of the investment includes the establishment of a new Panhandle State Hospital in Amarillo, Lubbock Psychiatric Center, and overhauls for existing facilities in cities like Terrell and Wichita Falls.

Hard figures spell out the specifics of the budget allocation: $120 million earmarked for a maximum-security unit in Harlingen's Rio Grande State Center, along with $15 million for a similar unit in San Antonio, indicate an anticipation of continued tight intersections between the mental health and criminal justice systems. Land acquisitions intended to expand the El Paso Psychiatric Center further reflect long-term commitments toward health and security. Notably, the state's present nine hospitals and one residential treatment center are about to get company, expanding the reach and capacity of Texas' psychiatric support network.

Data paints a stark reality for the state's mental health landscape: a 38% increase over two decades in individuals found incapable of trial underscores the urgency to act. Scott Schalchlin, Deputy Executive Commissioner for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Health and Specialty Care System, remarked on the expected positive outcomes. “These projects will improve the well-being of even more people across the state. We’re not just building hospitals — we’re rebuilding lives.” Schalchlin told the Texas Tribune. As of the previous year, a staggering 2,300 people were lingering in jail, awaiting the specialized treatment only state psychiatric hospitals can purportedly provide.

Efforts to modernize and improve access to inpatient psychiatric care in Texas have seen a steady budgetary climb since 2017, totaling $2.5 billion. The Austin and San Antonio replacement hospitals are slated to open their doors later this summer.