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Caitlyn Jones

New hospital to help mental health care

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By Caitlyn Jones

A new hospital coming to Corinth could alleviate some of the problems associated with mental health care in Denton County.

Texas Health Resources recently purchased the Atrium Medical Center at 3305 Corinth Parkway. The Arlington-based company plans to turn the 62,500-square-foot building into a 60-bed behavioral health hospital that will offer both inpatient and outpatient care.

The renovations will cost about $13 million and should be completed by June 2017. Developers are currently in the design stages for the building, which will be the 17th behavioral health facility in North Texas operated by Texas Health.

Atrium Medical Center, a long-term acute health care facility, has moved to the second floor of Integrity Transitional Hospital, at 2813 S. Mayhill Road in Denton. Atrium administrative assistant Jamie Bowman said the center should start taking patients again in mid-July, pending a routine state inspection.

According to Ramona Osburn, the senior vice president of behavioral health services for Texas Health, the push for a hospital in Denton County came after the release of a 2013 report by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas.

The report said suicide rates in Denton County had more than tripled over the previous three years.

“That statistic alone is very disturbing,” Osburn said.

According to more recent data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, about one person per week commits suicide in Denton County.

Even though funding has increased slightly since 2012 — when Denton County was at the bottom of a state list for per capita mental health services funding — there are still an estimated 77,000 residents living with a mental illness, according to a 2014 United Way mental health assessment.

Services such as Denton County MHMR exist but are equipped to handle only about 13 percent of adults and 8 percent of children with severe mental illness in the county.

“When we see someone [like Texas Health] increase services, that’s outstanding,” said Gary Henderson, United Way of Denton County president and CEO. “It’s going to have a large, immediate and direct impact. Often, people have to leave [Denton County] to find help they need. They have to go to Tarrant County or Dallas County. In many cases, that’s just not practical.”

Community leaders have tried to find solutions to the problem. Last August, the Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team formed in order to keep people from “falling through the cracks” as they move between service providers. The group has received grants and worked to link up different agencies, but Henderson said it’s a tough battle.

“It goes back and forth,” he said “We’ll have some victories with grants, but then we see other funding streams go away. It’s a constant challenge.”

Osburn believes the 10 doctors and 68 staff members who will run the new behavioral health hospital will have a significant effect on the overall health of county residents.

“When we treat people and give them therapy and medication, they will have a good chance to recover,” she said. “You can’t have total health without emotional well-being.”

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @CjonesDRC.