Doors open at new Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Tuesday the new Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department will admit patients who are in need of mental health services. The new facility, attached to University Medical Center Brackenridge, will help alleviate the the main emergency room and give people the specific treatment they need.

The first and only 24-hour facility in Travis County is open to anyone who might be going through a psychiatric crisis.  The center is designed with different safety features, but also decorated with calming colors, and has a lot of natural light to ease patients.

Seton said it took almost five months to build the new center on the north side of the hospital.  Each of the 17 rooms were constructed so that a patient couldn’t harm themselves or anyone else.  The beds are low to the ground, the furniture is made out of plastic and towel hooks can move down when there’s too much wait added.

The bathroom shower head is molded to the wall, and the shower curtains are made out of zip ties that can’t support much weight. Each room also has a peep hole so when nurses are making their rounds they can check on patients.

The rooms will be divided into two sections which include seven for “treat and release” patients and 10 for people who are held involuntarily or need to be transferred for higher level care.

The facility will staff 14 psychiatrist, but Dr. Barry Mills, the ED clinical director, said they’re still looking to fill seven positions because there’s currently a shortage of psychiatrists in the state.

Health care providers said having an ER for mental health is a step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot to do.

Seton said the Community Care Collaborative, which is a non profit started and managed by Central Health and Seton, will help improve health care in the county for those who have insurance or not.

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