New Ascension Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department To be Opened in Spring


A new Ascension Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department specifically designed to treat adults from throughout the community who suffer from psychiatric crises will open at University Medical Center Brackenridge in the spring.

You can see photos of a ceremonial “wall breaking” event that was held to mark the announcement.

“As with the rest of Texas and the U.S., Travis County does not have enough properly equipped facilities to meet psychiatric patient needs, but this new facility is a good and much-needed step forward,” said Jesús Garza, Ascension Seton president and chief executive officer. “The psychiatric ER is the most visible evidence so far that the Community Care Collaborative will improve health care across Travis County, whether patients have health insurance or not.”

The Community Care Collaborative (CCC) is a physician-led coalition of health care and service providers working to close gaps in the continuum of care. In addition to emergency psychiatric care, the CCC is providing additional obstetric, reproductive health, child obesity and chronic condition management services. The CCC is a new, not-for-profit created and managed by Central Heath, which is the Travis County health care district, and Seton.

This project is one of several under way to fill a yawning gap in local mental health services. After emergency treatment, psychiatric patient outcomes depend on outpatient and inpatient services that are available over the longer term. Currently, there are not enough of these follow-on services available. Ascension Seton and Central Health are working with community partners to develop and manage these much needed, additional services.

The new psychiatric facility will be staffed by psychiatrists, psychiatric family medicine and advanced practice nurses, social workers, clinical assistants and others. Seventeen rooms will be divided into two sections: seven for ambulatory “treat and release” patients and 10 for acute patients who are held involuntarily or need to be transferred to a higher level of care. The unit includes space to walk around, visit in an enclosed patio or sit in a common room.

Also, no one under 18 years of age can be treated in this new unit. Regulations require that adult and pediatric psychiatric patients be treated in separate facilities. Younger patients will continue to be diagnosed and treated at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, also operated by Ascension Seton, and at other local hospitals.

“Fortunately, Austin is ahead of many other Texas communities – in terms of collaboration among key leaders and groups – in improving health care quality and access,” Garza said. “However, as a community, we have a long way to go in addressing overall psychiatric needs. Perhaps this new psychiatric emergency room will be a catalyst for developing the additional services and facilities that are needed.”


A ceremonial “wall breaking” marked announcement of the new facility. Along with Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Garza, others who spoke and participated included Patricia Young Brown, Central Health president and chief executive officer; Travis County Judge Guy Herman; Sister Helen Brewer, Daughters of Charity and vice chair of Ascension Seton’s Board of Trustees; and Kate Henderson, president of Ascension Seton’s central group of hospitals, including UMC Brackenridge.

Behavioral health patients who also need emergency medical care will be treated first in the emergency rooms at UMC Brackenridge and other hospitals. They will be transferred to the new psychiatric department for evaluation after they are stabilized.

Ascension Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department is expected to handle 2,500 patient visits through the end of fiscal year 2014, which ends June 30. The numbers are expected to increase to 5,500 during fiscal year 2015 and 10,500 during fiscal year 2016.

About the Community Care Collaborative

The Community Care Collaborative, made possible by Travis County voters, encourages health care and social service providers to innovate in ways that deliver the right care in the right setting at the right time. The Collaborative seeks to provide unfunded patients with a “medical home,” and to ensure they enter the health system at the appropriate level of care and receive navigation assistance designed to improve outcomes and avoid duplicative tests and services. The Collaborative will expand the number of Travis County residents whose health care needs are met. (