Rio Vista Behavioral Health opened its 80-bed hospital in Northwest El Paso in 2019 and quickly outgrew its inpatient and outpatient capacity in just two years.
Acadia Healthcare, Rio Vista’s corporate parent, moved to address the growing need Thursday with the groundbreaking for a 40-bed addition and a new outpatient building. They will cost $26 million and open next year.
Construction begins in January.
Addressing nearly 200 local officials and medical personnel, Rio Vista’s CEO, Marie Alvarez, described El Paso as a big city with small-town connections that amplified the personal impact of the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting and a pandemic that has caused just under 3,000 deaths.
“Twenty-three lost their lives that day and every one of you was directly or indirectly affected,” said Alvarez, who grew up in El Paso. “Needless to say the psychological impact of this pandemic has also played a factor in the growing need for mental health services in our area.”
Including Las Cruces and Fort Bliss, that area takes in 750,000 people, in addition to the 1.5 million living in Juárez.
The additional 40 beds will increase the facility’s inpatient capacity to 120 beds, and the 12,000-square-foot outpatient building will allow for the expansion of intensive outreach services.
“We have made a commitment to grow with the behavioral health needs of our community,” Alvarez said.
El Paso Police Commander Steven Lopez said the additional capacity is needed.
“What we’re looking for, from the training academy to the chief’s office, is we want to catch officers and our civilians at the front end before those problems become problematic,” Lopez said. “I’m talking about divorce, alcoholism, substance abuse and how it affects them personally, their family and their friends.
“We’re really excited about joining this partnership.”
El Paso city Rep. Peter Svarzbein, whose 75-year-old mother is a working registered nurse, said the new facility on the fringe of the city development says a lot about El Paso’s continuing growth.
“I know that we are moving in the right direction, and I see it each and every day,” Svarzbein said. “Were all part of the resiliency, and we’re part of this strategy of coming back even stronger than we were before.”
For her part, Alvarez said being Rio Vista’s chief executive for the past 18 months has meant she doesn’t have to travel for work or family anymore.
“Before, I had a corporate gig traveling for about six years,” she said. “Now I’m home. That’s fantastic. My family’s here. My kids are here. My grandkids are here.
Alvarez said she didn’t start college after high school because she had children to raise first. She started on the road to being a corporate CEO as a substance abuse counselor.
“I got my clinical master’s degree out of the University of Phoenix while I worked a couple of jobs,” she said.