New, state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital in Texas Medical Center will change lives, experts say

HOUSTON – The new academic psychiatric hospital and the nearby UT Health Houston-Harris County Psychiatric Center have combined to create the UT Health Houston Behavioral Sciences Campus, making it the largest academic psychiatric hospital in the country with 538 beds.

The new facility, which was funded by the Texas Legislative Session in 2017, will begin taking patient services in March

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday.

Why is there a need for this facility?

“This new, state-of-the-art facility is a much-needed investment in the community and it will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to provide care for the most vulnerable Texans living with serious mental illness,” said Texas HHSC Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young.

The facility accommodates multiple patient populations and levels of treatment with access to medication management, group and individual therapy, and educational and life skills training.

While other private facilities exist in the community, this is a public facility that will give more people access to intense therapy.

Studies show that can help ease the burden on law enforcement.

How will it relieve pressure on the jail system?

“We’ve had that demonstration done in our previous projects where people with mental illness are far less likely to be touched in the legal system,” said Chief Medical Officer at UTHealth Houston Behavioral Sciences Campus Dr. Lokesh Shanani. “We’re also going to be providing some competency restoration units in our building which means patients who are in jail right now because they are incompetent to start a trial, we can provide them treatment so that they’re competent to stand trial and kind of get through the jail system. So, definitely a big impact on our legal system.”

Is there proof that can happen?

Results of two small, recently published studies led by Alia Warner, Ph.D., assistant professor; and Scott Lane, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research in the Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UT Health Houston, revealed that longer stays for select first or early onset of psychosis patients in a step-down setting resulted in lower hospital readmission rates and a lower likelihood of conviction of at least one crime post-discharge.

What makes it state-of-the-art?

Two internal courtyards allow access to the outdoors with walking paths, seating areas, and gardens. Wall-sized murals, which include photographs of Greater Houston and Texas landmarks and landscapes, were commissioned specifically for the hospital. The cafeteria includes a wall of inspirational sayings about nutrition.

Natural light from large windows, noise-reducing materials, and lighting were designed to lower stress.

Each unit also has a group room used for therapy sessions, art and music therapy, and recreation and relaxation. Rooms include chalkboards as a creative outlet for patients.

On the fourth level, there’s a large space for inpatient and outpatient services for people suffering from treatment-resistant behavioral health disorders. It has been designed with natural light and a Galveston scene mural.

One wing of the new building contains space for teaching and training new clinicians including doctors, nurses, therapists, and researchers.