Other Voices

Privatize the Terrell State Hospital

It’s smart to look for innovative ways to ensure that essential state services are delivered efficiently and effectively.

Take state mental health services — and the operation of state hospitals, in particular. It’s a timely example of ensuring that limited tax dollars deliver quality care and improve outcomes.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Terrell now, and it represents a tremendous opportunity for not only the hospital and its staff, but also the larger community.

Public-private partnerships can deliver crucial public services with same or better outcomes at a lower cost.

Exploring private operation of Terrell State Hospital is the right thing to do. Correct Care Recovery Solutions is in negotiations with the Department of State Health Services to operate the facility.

Without access to care and proper treatment, people with mental illnesses show up in our emergency rooms, our homeless shelters and our jails. In the end, that costs taxpayers even more at the local and state levels.

The private sector can be held accountable in ways that government is not.

Government can tailor contracts to ensure specific outcomes and compelling remedies. And a private contractor is held to the same reporting requirements and metrics as other state hospital facilities.

The private sector can also offer employees the same — and often better — career options, from competitive benefits to tuition reimbursement to a wider range of opportunities to grow and progress professionally.

Correct Care’s past experience in operating state hospitals also points to the possibility of considerable local economic development.

With the limited tax dollars dedicated to mental health services in Texas, using those dollars most wisely and efficiently is crucial.

Companies have shown themselves to be committed to forging innovative, effective solutions to state mental health service needs.

Such is the case with the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility. The facility, also managed by Correct Care, was the first state psychiatric hospital public-private partnership in Texas, launched nearly four years ago.

It achieved Joint Commission hospital accreditation within three months and now operates in a new therapeutic building, with almost no use of seclusion and restraint (a practice too common in state hospitals), and at a lower cost than state-operated hospitals.

It’s also forged a strong connection with the larger community and with mental health advocates.

From a business, economic development and taxpayer perspective, what’s happening in Terrell can and should be a model for other communities and for other state services.

Bill Hammond is CEO of the Texas Association of Business. txbiz.org