Health care facility at night
Rebuilding mental health: A blueprint for ambitious public projects

Billions of dollars are available throughout the country for new health care facilities, many of which will be designed to provide mental health services. The needs related to behavioral health are great in America, and the number of individuals waiting for services and support is escalating at alarming rates. Because of that, the upcoming launches of these types of construction projects will be significant.

Many of the new facilities will also be designed to support law enforcement needs. Too many individuals with behavioral issues that should be addressed through health care land in jails instead. Current jails and detention facilities are not equipped to provide support or health care services. The result has been tragic, and the hope throughout the country is that new facilities will be able to provide care and rehabilitation for thousands of individuals in dire need of attention. Examples of upcoming projects follow, and similar opportunities can be found in almost every state.

City officials in Kansas City, Missouri, have announced plans for a $300 million project to construct a new psychiatric hospital that will provide services for the western half of the state. It will relieve stress on the 20-year-old Center for Behavioral Health facility that currently provides services. The need for additional behavioral health services has been so lacking that many inmates have had to remain in jail rather than get support. No timeline has been announced for the contracting process.

A new jail and health facility will be constructed in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. The project has a projected cost of $260 million. The selection of a location is ongoing, with numerous sites under consideration. County commissioners are expected to finalize a location decision this fall. The new facility, which is currently in the design phase, will have space for medical and mental health care services, in-person visitations, diversion programs, classrooms for education and job training programs, and on-site courtrooms. Contracting opportunities are slated
for 2024.

Two new mental health facility projects will be launched in Sacramento County, California. The cumulative cost projection has been pegged at somewhere between $22.8 million and $23.5 million. A new crisis stabilization and psychiatric health facility for youth is planned, and a county-owned facility in the Rosemont area will be renovated to be used as an overnight psychiatric health facility. The county will also build an adult rehabilitation facility on vacant, county-owned land. This new facility will increase the capacity by an additional 64 beds. It will be designed to provide support and services for adults exiting acute mental health care facilities.

An $81 million project will deliver new mental health offices for the Santa Rita jail in the city of Dublin, California. The objective will be to increase the available support related to mental health care for inmates. Currently, the project is in the design phase. It will include clinical treatment rooms, classrooms and space for mental illness services. Behavioral health care staff will have offices on the second floor, and a small section of the new facility will be structured for community-based organizational staff. Contracting will begin as soon as the design phase is completed.

A new regional behavioral health care center will be built in Texas at a location between the cities of Odessa and Midland. The projected cost is $40 million. When completed, the new facility will deliver 100 new beds for individuals to receive treatment. Currently, the project is in the design stage with completion expected by late 2025. The Texas Facilities Commission, a state agency, is responsible for oversight. The new facility will be located near The University of Texas Permian Basin’s campus.

A large $228 million project to construct a mental health intake facility will soon be launched in Macomb County, Michigan. Funding was approved in June of this year. The new facility will be attached as an extension of the jail, and the project will also include some renovations and upgrades. The new building will be designed to provide mental health assessments and services for inmates. It will also provide an additional capacity for 210 beds and deliver space for services. Construction will begin as soon as the design phase is completed, but the effort is expected to take several years to complete.

Another new inpatient mental health facility in Texas received $40 million in funding from the 88th Texas Legislative Session. The funding comes from a $2.2 billion bill that was passed to address mental health needs statewide. The new 60-bed facility, which will be located in Victoria County, will be designed to provide 30 beds for civil use and 30 more for forensic use to support law enforcement.

Other upcoming projects will be similar in nature, and information can be obtained at the state and local levels of government. Every state has a Health and Human Services agency with an office of information. Local projects will likely be overseen by either the city or county. Those local governmental entities also have a public information office, and requests for information about upcoming health care projects such as these are public information that should be available upon request.

Having served as a statewide office holder in Texas for a decade and worked with other government officials for the past 25 years, I can share some valuable insights on best practices:

  • Move as quickly as possible when deciding to pursue any public sector project. Find a way to schedule a meeting with the appropriate stakeholder, whether that individual is at the C-level or serves as the person overseeing the project.
  • Ask for a short introductory meeting and explain that you plan to compete for the upcoming project.
  • Have your message well-prepared and keep it short. You will need to spend 5 minutes providing background related to your firm and 10 minutes about the company’s experience delivering similar projects. It will help if you have a project or two to highlight as a good reference.
  • Depending on who your conversation is with, keep in mind what they will want to hear, but understand that every stakeholder will be interested in past projects the company brought in on-time and on-budget without major problems.
  • Do not leave (or send) a packet of promotional material, but a one-pager that summarizes your message is always appreciated. Make sure your website and contact information are on the page. Public officials do not appreciate large media packets and rarely even look at them — they simply don’t have time and expect experienced contractors to know that.
  • Follow up with a good thank-you note and anything else you want to send in a last attempt to make sure you are remembered favorably.
  • Attend the pre-bid conference and request a sign-in sheet so you’ll know who the competition will be. Listen carefully for answers to questions posed, and find out if Q&A will continue after this initial meeting. 
  • Introduce yourself to all stakeholders. The objective is for public officials to see you and remember your firm.
  • Begin to vet some local subcontractors immediately because that will be a definite plus for your pursuit. Get these companies under contract, and ensure that some are small and minority firms. They have local networks, and you will want them to say great things about your firm, so treat them well. 
  • Remember that public entities in Texas have HUB requirements. That acronym stands for “historically underutilized businesses,” but other states often use the term “small and minority businesses” for that procurement requirement. Follow the HUB guidelines carefully for the proposal you submit — or risk being disqualified. 
  • If you have legitimate questions, contact only the person designated on the solicitation document.
  • Never miss a proposal deadline and don’t take too many exceptions to the contract. If negotiations falter over too many exceptions, public officials often decide to go in another direction.