New crisis stabilization unit opens in Morristown

New crisis stabilization unit opens in Morristown

The state contracted with Cherokee Health Systems to help build a 15-bed facility in Morristown. The state contracted with Cherokee Health Systems to help build a 15-bed facility in Morristown.

6 News Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) - Following the closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in June in Knoxville, some of its funding is being put back into the community for mental health programs.

A product of that is a new crisis stabilization unit that just opened in Morristown. It's the first of its kind for residents of the area.  

The state contracted with Cherokee Health Systems to help build a 15-bed facility in Morristown. Construction crews took only 49 days to complete the facility.

Officials say the facility was needed quickly. "For folks living in the Morristown area, this will be a great alternative for people that need to be in a 24/7 semi or hospital setting," said Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney.  

The new crisis stabilization unit was built alongside Cherokee's existing Morristown outpatient facility.  

"Hospitals tend to be at capacity quite often, and this is an opportunity for people who may need crisis intervention. And typically, we would have to send them to Peninsula Hospital," said Cherokee Health Director of Crisis Services Scott Corum.  

After opening on Monday, the facility currently has five patients who are able to stay for up to 96 hours.  

The state's mental health department says the Morristown facility closes a gap of service that existed due to Lakeshore's closure.    

Prior to the opening, anyone needing crisis stabilization in East Tennessee had to go to Peninsula Hospital, Ridgeview Psychiatric Facility in Oak Ridge, or Woodridge Hospital in Johnson City.    

"Cherokee is really going to handle a lot of those folks who would have normally have gone to Lakeshore, and who didn't have a local option," Varney said.  

Admission into Cherokee's stabilization unit is strictly voluntary. Its crisis stabilization unit offers 24-hour, seven days a week intensive, short-term stabilization.  

It's aimed to handle patients who wouldn't necessarily meet the criteria of other stabilization unit centers, like Peninsula Hospital.  

Patients who need higher levels of care than that would have to be transferred to Peninsula or Moccasin Bend in Chattanooga.  

"If they need a higher level care, if they need a secure environment, if they're at risk for hurting or harming themselves, then they need to be at a higher level of care," Corum said.  

Health officials say the new facility will help relieve the burden of local law enforcement from having to transport patients to other mental health facilities.  

The Knox County Sheriff's Office previously told health officials about having to transport a high number of mental health patients to different facilities.  

"This unit here in Morristown will also help take some of the pressure of that," Varney said.

Cherokee has operated a mobile crisis team for Cocke, Hamblen, Jefferson, Union, Grainger and Claiborne counties.  

The total cost of the facility is expected to be around $2.2 million. A $400,000 grant from the state helped absorb some of the cost.

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