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Construction Funding

During the 85th Legislative Session in 2017, the Texas Legislature approved $300 million to expand and significantly repair the state’s hospital system during the 2018-2019 biennium, with the intent to appropriate more funds to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in the following biennia. HHSC recommended allocating $126 million - more than one-third of the funding - to the UTHealth Houston project.

Many people at the Capitol and across the state were instrumental in securing these funds, including the author and sponsor of SB 1, Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. John Zerwas, MD, and state leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus. Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD, and Rep. Sarah Davis, who oversaw budget negotiations for health and human service programs, led the effort in their respective chambers to make sure this critical funding was included in an otherwise extremely tight budget year. Other members of the Harris County delegation were vocal in their support of the project, and ultimately ensured Houstonians will have the access to essential care.

The John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center Building was also recommended by the Senate Interim Committee on Health and Human Services, led by Sen. Schwertner and vice chaired by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst; and the House Select Committee on Mental Health, which was led by Rep. Four Price and included local mental health champions Reps. Garnet Coleman and Senfronia Thompson.

Start-Up and Operational Funding

The first years of operational funding are provided by the 87th Legislature in 2021. Estimated to be $42 million for a rolling opening through fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023, the state funding would open seven of the 11 24-bed units, or 168 beds of the 264-bed facility, which is the about the same percentage as state-funded beds at Harris County Psychiatric Center, an inpatient psychiatric hospital staffed by behavioral health care teams at UTHealth Houston since 1986. Using the UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center model, the remaining units would be used for third-party contracts and payers such as Medicare, Medicaid, Harris County Juvenile Probation, Texas Medical Center hospitals, and insurance. In addition to the start-up and operational funding, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 for fiscal year 2021 to begin faculty recruiting for the new hospital.

In addition to statewide leadership from Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan, SB 1 and HB 2 authors/sponsors Sen. Nelson and Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD, were key to securing the operational funding for these beds. Additionally, the chief budget negotiators for the health and human service programs in conference committee were Sen. Kolkhorst and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, assisted by Rep. Ann Johnson, a member of the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.