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Travis County's Mental Health Crisis Clinic Saves Hospitals (And Taxpayers) Millions, UT Study Finds

 A person sleeps on a sidewalk in downtown Austin last week.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A person sleeps on a sidewalk in downtown Austin last week.

A residential mental health care facility helping homeless Austinites saves hospitals millions of dollars annually, a new study suggests.

Researchers from UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and Dell Medical School looked at costs over a three-year period. They found services provided at The Inn, a facility operated by Integral Care, saved hospitals and psychiatric hospitals a total of $14 million.

Integral Care provides mental health care services to low-income people in Travis County and is funded by taxpayers.

People experiencing homelessness who have a mental health crisis can stay at The Inn for up to a week. Patients are given access to substance abuse treatment and medication, and are connected with longer-term treatment options.

The in-patient program had nearly 1,400 clients between 2017 and 2019. Ninety percent of clients were under the federal poverty level and more than half were experiencing homelessness, according to the study published this week in the journal Psychiatric Services.

Psychiatric hospitals saved $1.87 million annually as a result of the program, while hospitals saved $2.82 million a year.

Because hospitals are not always reimbursed for emergency crisis care, it can be a huge financial burden. The study notes that in a two-year span, emergency mental health care cost hospitals $93 million and Austin area jails $85 million.

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