Texas State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Texas State Representative Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) announced a significant allocation of funding for Rusk State Hospital, Caddo Mounds Visitor Center, and Stephen F. Austin State University on Friday, May 28.
"Representative Clardy and I have worked hard for many years to ensure there is awareness in the Legislature of the significant needs at Rusk State Hospital and the importance of investing in our state hospital infrastructure," Nichols said. "The additional funding for Caddo Mounds State Historic Site's Visitor Center and for Stephen F. Austin are also huge accomplishments this session. I'm excited to see the legislature dedicate needed resources to our mental health facilities, state historic sites, and institutions of higher education in East Texas."
During the 87th Legislative Session, the budget included an additional $3 million in funding for Rusk State Hospital to demolish antiquated, dangerous buildings on their campus.
Nichols and Clardy have long championed improvements to Rusk and more beds for mental health services. Rusk has undergone significant renovation in the past several years due to funding secured by their efforts in the 85th and 86th Legislative Sessions to construct new, state-of-the-art inpatient psychiatric facilities.
During the 85th Legislative Session, $300 million was approved to construct new state-funded inpatient psychiatric facilities, or significantly repair the state's hospital system during the 2018-2019 biennium. The Legislative Budget Board has given approval for $4.5 million of this funding to be used to obtain the architectural and engineering plans for a 100 bed maximum security unit at Rusk.
An additional $4.5 million was also approved from the original funding to replace 100 civil/non-maximum security beds at Rusk State Hospital, as a project for the 2020-21 biennium.
In November 2019, state and local officials broke ground on a $200 million construction project at the Rusk State Hospital that will include a new patient complex and administrative building.
Texas Health and Human Services is building a 225,000-square-foot patient complex that will include a 100-bed non-maximum security unit, scheduled to open in 2024, and a 100-bed maximum security unit, scheduled to open in 2022. Altogether, the 200-bed patient unit will replace six outdated buildings.
The project should create several hundred construction jobs. Meanwhile, the hospital continues to serve patients.
The project is part of a $745-million investment to modernize and revitalize state psychiatric hospitals in Texas.
Established in 1919, Rusk State Hospital offers inpatient adult psychiatric services to people in 36 counties throughout East Texas, including Anderson County. The campus, which includes 72 buildings, served 563 patients last year.
Among mental health services offered by the state hospital are adult psychiatric services, maximum- security forensic psychiatric services for men, forensic competency restoration services and residential psychiatric services.
HHS worked with The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Sustainable Development on developing a design for hospitals that can support modern mental health care, including single-person rooms, the use of natural light throughout patient rooms and commons areas, and outdoor spaces to promote recovery and healing.
Additionally, the budget included $400,000 for the Caddo Mounds Historic Site for their visitor's center. A few years ago, the visitor's center was severely damaged during a tornado that hit the area. The roof was ripped off the building and part of the building was essentially destroyed. These funds will be used for repairs and enhancements to the center.
In addition to Stephen F. Austin State University's formula funding, the university will also receive additional funding for their Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation.
The $2 million in funding will go toward bringing faculty and students together with business, industry, education, and community partners in dynamic, interactive environments.
Through these interactions, students will learn how to use their skills to work in teams with other students from multiple disciplines in order to solve complex real-world problems for rural and smaller communities.
"I want to thank the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee for taking the needs of East Texas into consideration when formulating the state budget," Clardy said. "I was proud to work with my good friend and colleague, Senator Nichols, to secure funding for the Rusk State Hospital, Caddo Mounds Visitor Center, and Stephen F. Austin State University. We have fought for several sessions to ensure the needs of East Texas are met, and the additional funds we received in the state budget are a major step in the right direction."