Op-Ed: Dallas Metroplex state psychiatric hospital
Nearly one-in-five Texans is experiencing an episode of mental illness, and for those in the Dallas- Fort Worth area more help is on the way. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and UT Southwestern Medical Center is building the first state psychiatric hospital in the Metroplex. It’s the largest urban area in the state without such a critical facility and it will have broad impacts not only for the patients served at the hospital, but for the community at-large.
Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.
The hospital will bring approximately 200 new inpatient beds to the DFW metropolitan area – a relief valve to a system under intense pressure as the state’s population and mental health needs continue to expand. About 3.6 million Texans are experiencing an episode of mental illness, with about 5% experiencing an episode of severe mental illness, according to 2022 estimates from Mental Health America. Growing the capacity for adult inpatient psychiatric care — including for certain forensic patients who have been ordered to the state hospital, but are waiting in jail — will be felt across the region’s emergency rooms, jails and other community services, which shoulder the responsibility for patients who must wait for a state hospital bed.
The partnership between HHSC and UTSW will also have impacts well beyond the four walls of the hospital. It will advance research conducted at UT Southwestern for psychiatric care and treatment, providing innovative educational and training opportunities to grow and improve the mental healthcare workforce, strengthening our overall mental healthcare system.
UTSW is well positioned to educate and train the emerging workforce alongside experienced providers in a modern psychiatric hospital. It is one of the few medical schools in Texas to train physicians for forensic psychiatry, has the largest psychiatry residency and fellowship training program in the state, and is among the largest in the country.
The new hospital will fill a significant gap in the area’s continuum of care for mental health. This continuum encompasses networks of organizations and services that support individuals living with mental illness beyond the state hospital setting. It is this broad continuum of care that will help ensure everyone is able to receive the mental health treatment services and supports they need, when they need it and where they need it.
Key to this project moving forward came when the Texas Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott approved $237.8 million for construction of the Dallas Metroplex state hospital. We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Jane Nelson and the Dallas area delegation for highlighting this priority and working tirelessly to obtain the necessary funding.
The new hospital builds upon previous investments made by the legislature to modernize the Health and Human Services network of psychiatric hospitals across the state. Texas is investing more than $1 billion into building, transforming and modernizing its state hospitals — and more work remains to be done.
The mental health benefits of what we can accomplish through this partnership and hospital construction project are clear, and we must maintain focus on the unique needs of people in the DFW area and across the state living with mental illness and how this environment can help support their healing and recovery. It is for them that we do this work.
Tim Bray is the associate commissioner of state hospitals at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
Carol Tamminga, M.D., is the chair of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.