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Rusk State Hospital admin building nearing completion, patient unit still under construction

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 9:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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RIUSK, Texas (KLTV) - The Rusk State Hospital in Cherokee County began the modernization of the Texas State Hospital system after a $745 million investment from the Texas Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott.

The construction and renovations of state psychiatric hospitals will include the construction and renovation of state psychiatric hospitals in Austin, Kerrville, Rusk and San Antonio, as well as a new hospital in Houston. Crews are working on a nearly $200 million project to build a modern 227,000 square-foot patient complex and replace the administration building at Rusk State Hospital.

The new administration building is set to open in September, and a new 200-bed patient unit is set to be done in Spring 2023.

“We demolished six buildings on campus to make way for that new 200 bed unit. Right now the foundation is being set, we’ve got exterior walls going up, and of course all of the infrastructure beneath and around it that will support the new building is going into it,” said Timothy Bray, Associate Commissioner for State Hospitals of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Bray said the Rusk State Hospital is over 100 years old and was deteriorating to the touch. Before they can welcome patients, they’ve got to get the administration services in. That building is set to be done in August, and they’ll move in in September.

“They’re in sort of temporary quarters now. We brought in trailers for them to work out of,” Bray said. “It will be wonderful to pull everyone back together and have the administrative team for the hospital in one place,” Bray said.

The modernized patient unit will provide better services and opportunities for patients to heal Bray said. This will be done through a single-patient bed and bathroom among other things.

“When people struggling with mental illness go into a hospital, require a hospital level of care, that’s significant. Going into a room with multiple other people who are working through their own individual issues creates some difficulty and there’s often aggression that results from that,” he said. “So providing spaces for people to decompress into and reduce that aggression so that they can heal in their own way is very important.”

Bray said they will also be building in secure courtyards in the new patient building.

“They can get off of the unit and into a space where we don’t have to worry about their safety. That’s another opportunity for them to get out, use nature in healing but also provide that safety for them,” Bray said.

Once they complete the 200 bed unit Bray said they’re going to realign the maximum security services.

“We’re going to increase it to 100. So half of that new building will be non-maximum security, half will be maximum security. That’s to ensure we provide spaces to people who need that extra layer of security,” he said.

This was all funded by the Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott. State Representative Travis Clardy said it was a tough battle to fight at times but an important one.

“It’s important for the mentally ill to be able to go to a place like Rusk. It’s a very unique location, very peaceful if you haven’t been there,” Clardy said. “But more than that, there’s a generational history of the people, the City of Rusk and Cherokee County, and surrounding areas, treating for generations the mentally ill. So there’s an understanding, a concern, a real compassion that the people have that work there.”

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