Texas State Hospitals Have Growing Waitlist for Mental Beds

According to information from the Health and Human Services Commission, Texas state hospitals have at least 842 inpatient psychiatric beds that are not operational. The hospitals are designed to run these beds, but due to a persistent staffing deficit, they have been vacant for months.

‘Terrible Condition for the First Time’

Andy Keller, president of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, “this is unusual in my experience.” Over 800 beds, or more than one-third of their beds, are unavailable.

In a presentation to the House Human Services Committee in late June, the agency revealed the terrible condition for the first time. Around 717 of these beds weren’t being used at the time.

According to an email from an agency representative, the capacity reduction has primarily been caused by difficult-to-fill positions. The most prevalent job openings are for laundry workers, psychologists, social workers, psychologists, social workers, and nursing assistants. Compared to late November 2019, there are almost 1,400 fewer full-time employees working for the state hospitals.

By providing employment incentives including wage hikes, recruiting bonuses, and flexible schedules, HHSC is aiming to restore pre-pandemic staffing levels in public hospitals, according to Jose Araiza. Additionally, we requested that wage increases be funded during the forthcoming session of the Texas Legislature.

To meet “critical personnel requirements,” the agency asked the lawmakers for more than $34 million in September.

All of the hospitals with offline beds are government-run institutions. Beds managed by partners like UTHealth Houston and UT Southwestern, however, are manned entirely.

These partner-operated institutions are working at full capacity because they are being managed by experienced hospital administrators, according to Keller. Furthermore, they are managed by individuals who are not paid until the beds are occupied.

Keller said that recruiting rigidities are a major factor in the state’s difficulty filling beds.

Therefore, Keller explained, “it’s not only a problem of money; it’s a matter of operational ability. I believe the state has to consider collaborating with safety net providers who have more freedom than the state.

Waiting List for Bed

Over 2,500 individuals are now on the waiting list for a bed. The majority of them are in line for “forensic” beds, which are reserved for Texans who have been ruled incapable of standing trial and need mental health treatment in order to regain their capacity.

As a result, many people are still incarcerated.

These people are all now incarcerated, according to Keller. “Being locked up is one thing, but being locked up with a mental condition makes you more likely to become a victim of violence or to instigate violence,” the speaker said.

He said that the backlog also has an influence on personnel and inmates’ general safety in jail institutions.

The impacts on everyone, including the offender, their family, the other inmates, and the community, are significant and increasing worse daily, according to Keller.