New Austin State Hospital breaks ground on 240-bed location

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas officials grabbed golden shovels and broke ground on the site of what will be the new Austin State Hospital Thursday morning.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is teaming together with Dell Medical School and the University of Texas at Austin on the project.

The team will design and build a 240-bed hospital that they plan to replace the current one on UT campus.

It is one of 10 in Texas. Five are being either renovated or replaced. Existing beds will operate during construction.

The project budget is $304.6 million. Lawmakers already approved $180.5 million.

RELATED: Austin State Hospital redevelopment plans released, await funding

It has been a long road to replacement. Lawmakers dedicated money two years ago in 2017 during the legislative session to begin planning the redesign. Then in 2019, the Texas legislature secured $165 million with the help of Senator Kirk Watson for the first phase of construction. Watson said the plan was to renovate in phases, what he called a “three-biennia program.”

They will need to secure approximately $120 million to finish construction and care for patients by June 2023, when the new hospital is expected to open.

Watson said at the groundbreaking: “Today is an exciting day and it is a celebration. When you consider just a few years ago, a report was done for the State of Texas called the Cannon Report that said ‘Of our 10 state hospitals, five of them were basically unsalvageable.’ We hadn’t kept up with them for maintenance or they just weren’t built for 21st century modern psychiatric care.”

The idea is infrastructure.

The team believes the new building will “enhance the state-of-the-art care we give and eliminates the challenges historic buildings pose for modern health care,” per their joint press release.

Watson said of the project’s goal: “We’re using this as the focal point for how we build out the entire continuum of brain health.”

The planning process has been lead by Dr. Stephen Strakowski, chair of the psychiatric apartment at the Dell Medical School. Strakowski brought together a large shareholder group.

“We expanded to include over one hundred participating from across this region,” Strakowski said. “Even though we all have disparate interests, different ideologies, selfish goals, we settled on one key principle that’s guided this design the entire time, and that is the people who receive care in this hospital come first.”

“My hope is that this is the groundbreaking that leads to… when someone receives brain health care in Austin, Texas, people will immediately think of that in the same way they think about someone that gets cancer care at MD Anderson or cardiac care at the Cleveland Clinic,” Watson said.

Commuters could expect delays.

Construction vehicles will enter and exit the campus using the entrances on 45th Street and Lamar just south of HHSC Building 1 (across from Chili’s). Turner Construction will offer 35 bid packages for the first stage of construction.

Click on the link here to access a QR code to scan for a 3D virtual tour of the new Austin State Hospital on your mobile device.

The slideshow below offers snapshots taken from the 3D virtual tour which show spaces from inside the hospital.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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