KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Concerns remain high about the state of mental health in Knox County. A report last year revealed two in five residents need mental health care.
Right now, there are only four state-run mental health hospitals in Tennessee. None of them are near Knoxville however that could soon change.
“It’s not just about the building, it’s also about ensuring we have the programming and the support that you need,” Mayor Glenn Jacobs said.
Jacobs like many others believes Knox County has a huge need for mental health services.
“Look at addiction and that’s very intertwined with mental health. The homelessness uptick that we’re experiencing, again a lot of that can be attributed to mental health,” said Jacobs.
No mental health hospital has planted roots in the county since the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closed in 2012.
“A lot of folks will point to that as really the start of the issues here,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s more complicated and complex than that.”
County commissioners passed a resolution last year urging state leaders to help build a mental health hospital.
“We have actually a lot of providers but if you don’t have private insurance or if you don’t have TennCare, those providers are limited so it’s really about having that portfolio of different providers for different people,” said the mayor.
Currently the plan the build the hospital is in the very early stages. It’s up in the air where exactly the hospital would go or how big it would be, but according to Jacobs, the state has been receptive to county leaders who want to get the ball rolling on the project.
“We don’t want to say just, ‘hey, we built this hospital and it’s great.’ We actually want to do things that have an impact on the community and it might be a hospital, it might be some other things as well. It might be a combination of all of it,” said Jacobs.
A new short-term mental health facility will be opening at the old St. Mary’s hospital site which will be managed by the McNabb Center. Jacobs says renovations to a building will be happening in the coming months.