State, local officials say $305 million 'cutting-edge' Austin State Hospital will be leading mental health care facility nationwide

Austin State Hospital originally opened in 1861. An independent review in 2016 found that many of Texas' state psychiatric facilities needed major renovations or reconstruction.

Austin State Hospital originally opened in 1861. An independent review in 2016 found that many of Texas' state psychiatric facilities needed major renovations or reconstruction.

Image description
ASH groundbreaking
Image description
Old ASH building
Image description
ASH groundbreaking
Image description
ASH rendering
Image description
ASH grounds
Three years after an independent audit found Texas’ psychiatric hospitals in need of major renovations or replacements, renovation efforts are underway to make Austin State Hospital the envy of mental health facilities across the country.

State and local officials gathered at the Austin State Hospital campus Oct. 3 to break ground on the first round of construction on the more than 100-year-old mental health facility.

“We're going to build a hospital that is going to be modern, truly cutting-edge, where people will progress from their own rooms … through stages of recovery that prepare you to get out of the hospital,” said Dr. Stephen Strakowski, associate vice president of regional mental health at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.

More than $180 million of funding for the restoration was approved by the 86th Texas Legislature this past spring for the design and initial round of construction of a state-of-the-art mental health facility. The new 240-bed building will replace the old buildings currently on the Austin State Hospital campus, according to documents from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Construction of the new facilities at Austin State Hospital is estimated to have a total price tag of approximately $305 million, according to HHSC documents. Executive Commissioner Dr. Courtney Phillips said the agency will return to the state to request the last round of funding.

Construction began on the original Austin State Hospital in 1857, and it began operations in 1867, making it the oldest mental health hospital in Texas, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

In 2017, the Texas Legislature earmarked $15.5 million to plan for the redesign of the Austin State Hospital campus after a 2016 independent review found the state’s mental health hospitals in need of major renovations or complete replacements.

The construction of the new three-story, 380,000-square-foot Austin State Hospital is one of five projects across the state to restore or reconstruct psychiatric health facilities.

A combined $745 million is planned for the construction and restoration projects at Rusk State Hospital, Kerrville State Hospital, San Antonio State Hospital and the UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health. Phillips said the projects will add more than 350 psychiatric health beds across the state.

The projects are a coordinated effort by the state to improve Texas’ mental health operations, local and state officials said at the Oct. 4 groundbreaking. Officials hope Austin State Hospital, in particular, will become an industry standard for mental health practitioners.

“We're going to move Texas from being a little behind to being at the forefront of delivering the best inpatient care you can deliver, right here on this campus,” Strakowski said. “This is truly a wonderful opportunity for us right here in Central Texas to show the country this is how you take care of your most vulnerable citizens.”

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told those in attendance that he hopes the new hospital campus, at the end of its construction, will be held in the same regard for mental health care as The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is viewed as a leader for treatment of cancer.

“We break ground today on a 21st-century brain health hospital that will be the focal point of building out a continuum of health care that will be, I predict, envied,” Watson said.

The new Austin State Hospital facilities are slated to open in 2023, HHSC officials said Oct. 3. In the meantime, hospital staff will continue to serve patients on-site.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


MOST RECENT

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

ArborView is a 62-plus active-living community. (Courtesy ArborView)
Southwest Austin active-living apartment community set to open March 1

The 62-plus active-living community will have 151 total apartment units for rent.

H-E-B will open a new location in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Southwest Austin in August. (Rendering courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B to open in Oak Hill in Aug.; comedy club coming to The Domain and more news from February

Read business and community news from the past month from Central Texas.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.