December 14, 2017
Our fingers are crossed that great things are happening for psychiatric care in our community. The Texas Legislature tentatively approved $125 million to build a 304-bed “continuum of care” campus adjacent to our UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC). Our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences operates and staffs this 276-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital. HCPC is very busy, with just over 8,600 admissions last year.
Dr. Jair Soares, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, is the executive director of HCPC, and Steve Glazier, is the chief operating officer. I recently asked them how the expansion of HCPC will benefit the community and the medical school.
Tell us a bit of the history of HCPC.
HCPC was established in 1986. The building is jointly owned by the state and Harris County, and the hospital is operated by the UTHealth Department of Psychiatry. HCPC is primarily funded by the state through a contract that is managed by the local mental health authority.
Why does HCPC need to expand?
Psychiatric services are insufficient to meet the mental health needs of our city and our state. At any time we have a waiting list of 24-45 patients in need of hospitalization and only 276 inpatient beds. The patients we serve often get turned away from other hospitals because they are uninsured, or because other facilities do not have the resources to provide care to patients with complex illnesses and added psychosocial challenges. As a result, these patients get worse without proper treatment.
In addition to more hospital beds, what is planned for HCPC’s expansion?
Currently, HCPC has the capacity to primarily provide acute inpatient care. Our specialized services include diagnostic assessments and treatments, such as behavioral interventions, medication management, psychological testing, individual and group therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and new therapies in clinical trials, such as ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.
In this new facility our goal is to create a continuum of care for our patients and their families, offering a full spectrum of services, including acute care, sub-acute care, and residential treatment. We intend to provide a full breadth of options to best fit patients’ needs. By improving clinical outcomes, we hope to reduce readmission rates and break the cycle of chronic recidivism that too many of our patients fall into. This new model will enable us to move patients to the most appropriate level of care. As their needs change and conditions improve, we will able to provide a less intensive and less restrictive form of care in a way that our current hospital model does not offer.
The shortage of psychiatric beds in our community results in the overutilization of hospital emergency rooms, law enforcement, and jail services across the Greater Houston area. We believe that the new “continuum of care” will not only help us to achieve better patient outcomes but also will prove to be more cost effective over the long-term. The expansion also will allow us to further our collaborations with current partners, such as the Harris Center and the Council on Recovery, and permit us to pursue new associations with institutions across the Texas Medical Center and state.
What is the vision for HCPC and what does that look like within the context of UTHealth and McGovern Medical School?
This expansion would make HCPC the largest academic psychiatric hospital in the United States. Our vision is to be a national leader in developing and delivering a new model of care for mental health that closes the continuum of care gap for our patients and their families. As an academic health center that cares for patients, educates trainees, and is engaged in innovative research, we are well poised to reach this goal. We are grateful for the support of the state as well as our medical school and university.
Thank you, Dr. Soares and Mr. Glazier, for sharing a great vision and wonderful future for mental health services in Houston. We are hopeful that the Legislature will deliver on its support of this important mission for the residents of Harris County.