Fort Worth

Taxpayers OK’d $800 million for JPS last year. Here’s where $40 million might go

Tarrant County voters last year signed off on an $800 million bond package for John Peter Smith Hospital, the first bond money the hospital sought in more than three decades.

Officials are now talking about moving forward with some of the first projects: Two community clinics where people can get their primary and mental health care in one place.

Each of these clinics will cost about $20 million and, while officials have yet to determine their location, they already have a basic design because they will be similar to the Medical Home Northeast that opened in October 2018.

“I think before the end of the year, we could make the selection of locations and be mid-construction by the end of next year,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said Tuesday after the Commissioners Court received a briefing on the plans by JPS CEO Robert Earley.

The goal of these clinics, officials say, is to keep people out of hospital emergency rooms and give them one place, a medical home of sorts, where all of their medical needs can be met.

“When a woman comes in for her health care exam, she can bring her children in for their pediatric exams and ... her husband can get his health care exam,” Earley said. “It’s a one-stop shop.”

Each of these clinics also would be able to address mental health care needs, officials said.

Early also talked about wanting to shift the psychiatric emergency room on the hospital’s 10th floor to a newly built facility on the first floor near the Trinity Springs Pavilion/adult inpatient unit.

County Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks said he doesn’t want the county to address mental health piece by piece.

“I’m afraid we are getting our head ahead of our skis by piecemealing ... mental health,” he said. “It’s bad to have psychiatric emergency on the 10th floor.

“But just to build a new psychiatric emergency room without any idea of what we are going to do with Trinity Springs ... seems to be a case of jumping the gun.”

Early said it’s all a matter of making the services work together.

JPS board directors and county commissioners may soon meet to move forward projects that will be funded by the bond package.

The bond package approved last year was to provide funding for a new behavioral and mental health hospital, four regional medical centers, an outpatient surgery center, increased bed space and expanded cancer treatment and other improvements.

The upgrades and construction were estimated to cost $1.2 billion.

County officials have said they hope to not have to borrow the full $800 million.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.