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HHSC Releases Preliminary Report on State Schools and Hospitals

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The future of mental health care in Texas is unstable. State schools and hospitals could be closed or consolidated depending on how the Legislature votes. The first draft of a major study, which will help them make their decision, is out.

At the request of the Texas Legislature, the Health and Human Services Commission has spent months working on a study called Rider 55.

The preliminary report ranks which state schools and hospitals could be shut down or consolidated. The Austin State School and Kerrville State Hospital are listed as the two easiest choices to be closed. The Brenham State School was well above that, depending on the category, it was the eighth or ninth feasible choice for closure.

"The preliminary information that members of the Legislature have and the work that we're still compiling into the final report does not include recommendations for closure. It really presents the most complete data that we can in terms of all the different data that was laid out for the analysis," said HHSC spokesperson, Jennifer Harris.

The report goes into detail about other factors the HHSC thinks Legislators should look at .

Those issues include large bond debts. For instance, if a facility is sold, many of the bonds must be payed off in full by the state. The average total of bonded amounts at a state school or a state hospital is about $9 million. But, the average market value of the facilities is only about $1 million.

The HHSC also says asbestos could complicate the sale or closure of a facility.

A completed final report on all these factors and the feasibility rankings is expected next week. Legislators plan to use that information to make an informed decision about the future of mental health institutions in Texas.