The Menninger Clinic Moves Closer To Med Center To Amp Up Research

Photo credit: The Menninger Clinic

A "patient commons" area at the newly-built $50 million campus of The Menninger Clinic, a private psychiatric hospital. The new location is closer to the Texas Medical Center.
The Menninger Clinic is moving to a new location next week. The new $50 million campus is just a few miles south of Reliant Stadium. The private psychiatric hospital, which started in Topeka, Kansas, wants to be closer to the Texas Medical Center.

The new campus looks like an upscale conference center, with landscaped paths winding between five low-slung buildings. In a nod to Menninger’s Midwestern roots, the design draws on the Prairie-Style architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Dr. John Oldham is the chief of staff.

“You know it goes back to the problem of stigma which I worry about all the time. We want people who come in here to feel normalized and feel somehow they’re not in a locked-up place that’s scary. We don’t want that.”

There’s stone fireplaces, a chapel, and even a small swimming pool.

Dr. Susan Hardesty shows off one of the patient rooms.

“It’s a memory foam type mattress so it’s really comfortable. That’s very atypical for psychiatric beds to have that kind of capacity to have a double bed and very, very nice setting like that. We’re using our own linens and they were designed for the hospital … ”

The Menninger is clearly a deluxe facility for the most difficult-to-treat cases. There are special programs for teens, young adults, and professionals like pilots and doctors.

Prices vary, but treatment can cost up to $2,000 a day. And most patients will stay for six-to-eight weeks.

Oldham concedes that a stay at the Menninger is out of reach for most people with mental illness, because most insurance plans won’t pay for more than a few days of psychiatric hospitalization.

But he says all psychiatric patients benefit from the research conducted at the Menninger Clinic. For example, almost all patients undergo brain scans and DNA sampling, and participate in other studies.

Klotman, Aitken, Oldham
(from left to right) Dr. Paul Klotman, president of Baylor College of Medicine; Ian Aitken, president and CEO, The Menninger Clinic; Dr. John Oldham, senior VP and Chief of Staff, The Menninger Clinic. Baylor residents in psychiatry do clinical rotations at The Menninger Clinic.
Photo credit: Eric Kayne Photography

“Yes it is a private hospital. But we want to do research that will give us information that we can feed back and use as a soapbox, to really help people understand that sometimes you need more time than insurance companies will pay for in what I call ‘Band-Aid treatment’ – five to six days is about all people will pay for, for you to be in a hospital.”

The Menninger Clinic moved to Houston in 2003, but was located on the far west side. The distance made it hard for collaboration with the Medical Center.

Psychiatric residents from Baylor train at the clinic, as do nursing students and social workers. The new location will ease their commute, but also allow for more research partnerships at the Medical Center.

“Our goal is to become the MD Anderson for mental health.”

The new location will have 120 beds, but there are some reserved for patients who can’t pay. And there will be more space on the new campus for public lectures on mental health issues.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...