A new residential mental health treatment center in Southeast Austin aims to improve the city’s ability to care for patients going through psychiatric crises. Officials say it will also save the city money it would otherwise use to hospitalize or incarcerate individuals for mental health-related episodes.

The 16-bed, 12,000-square-foot center is set to open in early 2017, according to Austin Travis County Integral Care.

The Judge Guy Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis Care is named for Austin Probate Judge Guy Herman, a longstanding advocate for mental health issues, said David Evans, CEO of ATCIC.

At the facility’s groundbreaking March 29, Herman said he was honored and humbled to have his name associated with the project. He said the center would serve as a safe harbor and bring compassionate care to residents with mental health issues.

The new facility will be located behind Central Health’s Southeast Health and Wellness Center on Montopolis Drive. It was created in a partnership between Central Health, ATCIC and the St. David’s Foundation.

Evans said as Austin continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, the need for more innovative and accessible health care increases. He also said one in five people experience a mental health issue in any given year.

“Emergency rooms and jails are not the answer,” Evans said.

The new center will serve as an access point for assessment, diagnosis and immediate treatment of patients with mental health needs, he said.

Central Health President and CEO Patricia Young Brown said the center would address a gap in health care in the city, reduce the cost of care and improve health outcomes for patients.

St. David’s Foundation CEO Earl Maxwell said Austin has fallen behind the rest of Texas in mental health care for many years, and Texas has fallen behind other states. The new center will significantly improve mental health services in the region, he said.

“We believe that good health returns great benefits to the community,” he said.

Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay with Austin Police Department said the groundbreaking of the center is a step in the right direction, but the city must constantly do more to improve mental health services.

“The fight is not over,” he said.