From Houston Public Media:
When the John S. Dunn Behavioral Health Center, a new psychiatric hospital just outside the medical center, opened a year ago in March, it represented a step away from the state’s historic strategy for in-patient mental health care.
What sets the hospital apart is the partnership between UTHealth Houston, which is home to McGovern Medical School, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. State hospitals are where 85 percent of state-funded psychiatric beds are located. But The Dunn Center is one of the rare facilities in Texas that receives state funding but is operated by a university.
These partnerships are a growing force shaping health policy in Texas. Another psychiatric hospital in partnership with UT Southwestern is now under construction in Dallas. The legislature has also provided funding to 12 medical schools in the Child Mental Health Consortium to provide mental health care via telehealth to students in Texas schools.
“We’ve heard from a number of people, there’s an interest in facilitating more partnerships between Health and Human Services and academic institutions,” said Stephen Glazier, Vice President of Government Relations at UTHealth Houston. “I think there’s a real interest on the legislature’s part in exploring other opportunities to do something similar to what we’ve done.”
Lawmakers are considering a $130 million proposal to continue paying higher wages. There’s seems to be political will to sustain those raises.
“There’s a pay raise for the workers at our state hospitals,” said Senator Lois Kolkhorst at a press conference last month. “It’s nearly a 40% increase in salaries. And we are seeing a good take up.”
She acknowledged the consequences when these beds don’t have the staff. Patients in the criminal justice system suffer the worst. They can end up waiting months or years in jail if a bed isn’t available.
“I believe it’s a civil rights issue,” Kolkhorst said. “You shouldn’t be waiting in jail to have mental competency restored to wait to go to trial.