Seton Healthcare opened the first psychiatric emergency department in Central Texas on April 29 at University Medical Center Brackenridge.
The 17,600-square-foot department has 17 beds and serves anyone age 18 and older in a psychiatric crisis, including those at risk for suicide or experiencing a psychotic episode, said Dr. Kari Wolf, Seton Healthcare's vice president of medical affairs.
"We've been working for years to bring a psychiatric emergency department to Austin, and we're finally here," Wolf said. "We all know that there are many gaps in the current health care delivery system. In Central Texas, those gaps are arguably most pronounced in behavioral health. This new service is a shining example of how Seton is partnering with Central Health and others in the Community Care Collaborative to close those gaps and transform our health care delivery system."
Prior to the facility's opening, people in psychiatric crisis went to standard emergency rooms, which are not equipped with psychiatric medical staff. The new department, located on the second floor of the hospital, is staffed with psychiatrists, psychiatric family medicine advanced practice nurses, social workers, nurses and clinical assistants.
Addressing behavioral health needs is one of the goals set by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, to improve health care in Travis County. The $4.2 million emergency department is funded by local and federal matching funds under the 1115 Medicaid waiver program.
"Health care is about measurement," said David Pringle, Seton's vice president of mission integration. "When it comes to care that is going to be provided in this facility, measurement is important because somehow it says that, 'Somebody understands my pain. Somebody understands what's happening with me, and somebody cares.'"