Hays County judge angles for new mental health hospital

Hays

HAYS COUNTY (KXAN) — Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra was expected to meet with community leaders Friday about the possibility of bringing a mental health hospital to the area.

The county has 87 mental health providers per 100,000 residents, according to a report last year by Ascension Seton Hays Hospital. That number was lower than the state average and far lower than the national average.

“There’s just a chronic shortage of good providers, and there seems to be endless demand,” said David Walsh, a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Dripping Springs.

Walsh works with a range of patients, from those battling substance abuse to those with depression or mood disorders.

“With the population growth, we’ve seen an uptick in volume,” he said.

Few details were available about the project, but Becerra said his goal was to present a plan to the Hays County Commissioner’s Court in the next few weeks. When we asked about how the project would be funded, one of Becerra’s assistants told KXAN he wouldn’t be making any further comment Friday.

Walsh says he thinks an inpatient mental health hospital is needed in the county. He added a number of conditions require treatment in a 24-hour, full- observed facility, and they affect more families than people think.

“Every other one of us has the very real possibility that we’re going to develop some kind of a clinically significant anxiety or depressive episode,” he said.

As far as psychiatric commitments go, Hays County District Attorney said the numbers are down in 2020. He said his office filed 255 commitments last year and 221 in 2018.

In 2020, that number so far is 84. Mau said one reason could be the closure of a San Marcos psychiatric hospital for geriatric patients. He did note many of those patients would come from outside of Hays County.

According to federal hospital data on Medicare.gov, that facility was the only psychiatric hospital in the county.

“Frankly, we need the beds,” said Walsh.

Even so, Mau added the now-closed facility was more of a specialized unit—mostly taking voluntary patients or those from outside the county.

“When something happens here, and a person in mental crisis must be hospitalized, they are sent to one of our local hospitals for immediate treatment, and then they may be transferred to a private or state hospital for longer term care, if necessary,” he said.

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