State officials propose closing Lakeshore Mental Health

State officials propose closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville

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There are 350 employees at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. There are 350 employees at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - State officials have proposed closing Lakeshore Mental Health Facility in Knoxville as part of an overhaul of mental health care in the state

Tennessee Commissioner of Mental Health Doug Varney will recommend at a budget hearing with Gov. Bill Haslam next Tuesday in Nashville that Lakeshore should be closed by June 2012.

The move would have to be approved by the General Assembly.

The proposal is intended to keep the state in step with current trends in mental health care, with emphasis is moving from state hospital care to community based programs.

It includes expanding community services provided by private psychiatric mental health providers in East Tennessee.

The state has psychiatric in-patient hospital contracts with Covenant Health (Peninsula Hospital of Knoxville), Mountain States Health Alliance (Woodridge Hospital of Johnson City), and Ridgeview Community Mental Health Services of Oak Ridge.

The plan proposed by Varney would extend those services to make up for the loss of Lakeshore.

According to information released by the State Department of Mental Health, Lakeshore served about 2,300 patients daily and is now serving 90 patients.

Lakeshore's Board of Trustees met late Thursday afternoon at the administration building at the hospital for an emergency meeting with Varney.

Lakeshore's chief officer, Lee Thomas, told employees in an email, "In the days ahead, we trust more details will emerge as to how Lakeshore's closure will be implemented."

There are 350 employees at Lakeshore. The facility serves 24 counties in Northeast Tennessee.

Lakeshore is one of five regional mental health institutes operated by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health. The facilities provide in-patient psychiatric services for adults. Most admissions are on an emergency involuntary basis.

Sources say the care of Lakeshore's patients will become privatized. Two thirds of the patients have no insurance. Most of the remaining patients are on TennCare.

The popular Lakeshore Park is separate from the facility. No changes are expected at the park.

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