Rock Springs, a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility in Georgetown, celebrated the opening of a new 24-bed unit for adolescents ages 13-17 on Jan. 31.

The $10 million wing comes as Rock Springs has partnered with Williamson County and Bluebonnet Trails Community Services to meet an increased need for youth mental health care following the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

“Early intervention with compassionate care can really stem off lifelong debilitating mental illness and substance use issues,” said Erin Basalay, Rock Springs Chief Executive Officer.

The context

Rock Springs opened in 2014 and began providing in-patient services to adolescents with a 12-bed unit in March of 2020, Basalay said.

The need for youth psychiatric beds has increased over the last several years amid increases in suicide risk, emergency room visits for behavioral health issues, depression and substance abuse nationwide, Basalay said.

The 10,000-square-foot expansion has doubled the facility’s capacity for adolescents and freed up the original 12 adolescent beds for adult patients, resulting in 96 total beds across the facility.

“We've been at capacity for the majority of the time we've been in operation,” she said. “We hope with these additional beds ... that we'll be able to reach more people.”

Williamson County's Behavioral Health Task Force spearheaded the partnership with Rock Springs and mental health service provider Bluebonnet Trails Community Services to address growing needs amongst the county’s youth, Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved $3 million for construction costs and donated $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to Bluebonnet Trails Community Services to pay for some operating costs and beds for uninsured families at Rock Springs, said Connie Odom, the county's director of communications and media relations.

Covey said she hoped the expansion would prevent more youth from entering the county’s juvenile system and jails.

“The ever growing need is not being served by the state of Texas, and we won’t wait around for that to happen,” Covey said. “We’re not going to wait for them to create more beds.”

Notable quote

“Our mission really is to break down that stigma and bias about receiving access to mental health and substance use care,” Basalay said. “It really shouldn't be any more difficult or stigmatizing than going to take your child to the pediatrician [or] to the dentist.”

The specifics

The adolescent unit is expected to open to patients in early February, Basalay said.

Patients will see a psychiatrist and therapist daily, receive 24/7 monitoring by nursing staff, and partake in in-person and virtual visitation, she said. The unit will allow Rock Springs to expand its recreational therapy services and leisure activities.

The adolescent unit includes the following features:
  • Bedrooms with two beds each
  • Quiet rooms
  • Dining hall
  • Multi-purpose space
  • Outdoor court-yard
  • Laundry rooms
  • Group rooms
  • Nurse's station
  • Medicine room
  • Beverage and snack station
  • Lockers