Plans in place to replace San Antonio State Hospital to better serve patients' needs

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio State Hospital, an outdated facility that continues to house hundreds of mental health patients, is one of several facilities across Texas in desperate need of replacement. 

During the last legislative session, state legislators instructed multiple agencies to put together a report, reviewing the mental health system and detailing what a new San Antonio State Hospital would look like.

Plans have been drafted for a new facility that’s better designed to serve patients.

“The people who go to the state hospitals are the most severely mentally ill -- schizophrenia, bipolar and people with severe impulse control disorders,” said Dr. Steven Pliszka, chairman for UT Health San Antonio’s psychiatry department.

The patients include people charged with crimes who are unfit to stand trial and deemed nonviolent.

Pliszka said some patients stay at San Antonio State Hospital for a month, but some are there for decades. He and other experts say the outdated facility, which was last renovated in the ‘60s and earlier, no longer fits patients' needs. Their research, outlined in an extensive report, details the need for a new hospital.

The new hospital will eventually be built on a what is currently a big field and will house 300 patients.

“The idea is not to get the patient sitting in their room, not pacing up and down the hall,” Pliszka said.

Renderings show a modern building with open spaces.

“This is a secure area so the patients can come out and be in the green area,” Pliszka said while pointing at renderings.

The second part of the report assessed mental health care as a whole.

“I think we need to do more in terms of the aggressiveness of our outpatient care. That would include things like more rapid access to medication, more rehabilitative therapies, more home-based services,” Pliszka said.

Success would mean fewer patients ending up in state hospitals.

The Texas Legislature is currently looking at how to appropriate money to construct new state hospitals in multiple cities. The expected cost for San Antonio’s replacement hospital is about $343 million.

Pliszka hopes to receive the full amount so construction can begin soon.

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