Texas unveils new hospital unit for Veterans

AUSTIN – Texas health officials announced the creation of a 20-bed specialized care unit for Texas veterans. The first of its kind within the state, the new unit at Terrell State Hospital is designed to provide mental health services to this specific population with unique needs.

HHSC estimates at least six percent of patients in state hospitals identify as veterans. Many of those veterans come to a state hospital from the legal system and face unique challenges that are best addressed through psychiatric care attuned to their background.

“Providing specialized mental health services with this new unit marks an innovative direction in how we care for our veterans, who have made sacrifices to defend our nation’s freedom,” said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, HHS executive commissioner. “Our modern treatment and caring team members will serve veterans well and help them recover and live successfully in their communities. It is an honor and privilege to enhance our mission on behalf of veterans.”

“I am honored that HHSC has chosen to expand the capacity of Terrell State Hospital to include this new unit focused on providing essential mental health services to the veterans in our area,” said Rep. Keith Bell. “Dedicating this expansion to those who have made this country a beacon of democracy is the least we can do. I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of a renewed commitment to this facility.”

“Throughout the past year, my staff and I have met with Terrell State Hospital staff, concerned citizens, and agency leaders about the future of the Hospital and its desperately needed improvements,” said Sen. Bob Hall. “I’m pleased to hear about HHSC’s specialized veteran care unit at Terrell State Hospital. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Border Security committee for the past three legislative sessions, I’ve examined the diverse and complex struggles that veterans face. Although there is still much more work that needs to be done for the future of the Terrell State Hospital, I do believe this is a step in the right direction and I look forward to working together toward a common goal of providing assistance to our veterans.”

“The Texas Veterans Commission welcomes this expanded support for the well-being of our veterans,” said Thomas P. Palladino, Executive Director of the Texas Veterans Commission. “Through an inter-agency contract with the Health and Human Services Commission, TVC supports HHSC’s Mental Health Program for Veterans and works to connect veterans to the resources they need. The TVC remains committed to supporting HHSC’s Mental Health Program for Veterans and increasing access to mental health services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.”

The new 20-bed unit at the state hospital, located about 30 miles east of Dallas, began welcoming forensic veteran patients July 1. The veterans unit is staffed by 51 clinical workers, many of whom are also veterans.

Staff at the new unit at Terrell is receiving specialized training, which will eventually become part of continuing training for all clinical mental health providers working at HHSC’s 10 state hospitals.

Key to this approach is cultural competency training that will allow staff at the new unit to better interact with the patients residing there. Working with the Texas Veteran’s Commission, HHSC piloted a training course at North Texas State Hospital. The training includes providing knowledge of military basics along with specialized psychotherapies and resources proven to help veterans.

Veterans from all of the state hospital system’s service areas are eligible to request admission to the new unit at Terrell State Hospital. Depending on availability of space, veterans on civil commitments to the state hospital system could also be placed at the unit.