September 23, 2016
I’m the consummate optimist, always looking for ways to make lemonade out of lemons.
In that dismal failure, I see an amazing opportunity to rethink our entire system for mental healthcare because the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has determined the Austin State Hospital must be replaced.
The good news is that Austin now has the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas. That new medical school has a department of psychiatry and the founding chair of that department, Dr. Steve Strakowski, is a rock star with a vision for rethinking the obsolete mental health system currently in place. Not just the state system, but the whole continuum of mental health care.
Remember the old commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?
Our brand new medical school with its new psych department is the chocolate. The imminent need and the mandate to replace ASH is the peanut butter. Put ‘em together and we got one sweet deal.
Put ‘em together and we can replace the decrepit Austin State Hospital with a center for excellence in mental health, something akin to an MD Anderson of the brain.
I’m not alone in seeing this terrible situation as an opportunity. I’ve been working with a number of people, including folks like Dr. David Lakey at UT System and people at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. HHSC is responding and recently wrote in its budget request that our state’s mental health facilities “operate under the same fractured mental health hospital system that was implemented 50 years ago. But working with Dell Med and others creates the potential “to move past the obsolete system currently in place to provide the highest-value care, stressing quality for patients and cost-effectiveness for taxpayers.”
Five years ago this week, I laid out a vision for achieving 10 Goals in 10 Years related to health care in Central Texas. Since then, we’ve seen the opening of our new medical school and enormous successes in the area of behavioral health.
Local organizations like Austin Travis County Integral Care, which provides community-based services for Travis County residents with brain-based disorders, and Central Health, our county health care district, have been doing great work and are ready to engage with Dell Med and others in a planning process to reform and improve the entire continuum of mental health care.
While we’ve been making so much progress on a local level, there’s also been an unprecedented focus on mental health from state leaders, too:
All of this momentum gives me hope that we can create something special here. With some dedicated planning and rethinking, we can make Austin the place where we model 21st century mental health care and focus on the person, not just where they receive care or how it’s paid for.
Mental health issues are common. We can and should pursue an M.D. Anderson of the brain and create hope.
September 29th is my annual concert at Zilker Park. We’ve had a great response and are expecting a wonderful night. I sure hope you’ll be there.
You can get tickets here: