It drew controversy in the beginning, but an urgent care center for people battling substance abuse hoping to avoid jail time by changing their lives has now been open for two months.
The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center has 16 jail diversion beds for offenders. WATE 6 On Your Side is not allowed inside due to HIPAA laws.
More online: Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center
President and CEO Jerry Vagnier says they’ve served a good number in the community already. He says the reason the facility always seems so full is that staff is working there around the clock.
“That’s very purposeful by design so these folks get the supervision they require and the clinical care that’s essential for their wellbeing,” said Vagnier.
He explained that the center is for people in crisis.
“By definition if you have an encounter with law enforcement in the community, it’s a crisis. So folks with a mental illness,or a substance use condition who are brought to us, they’re at a point where they have to make some important decisions about whether or not they want to go to jail or whether or not they want to receive care and treatment and start a life of recovery,” he said.
Vagnier says people who are drug users and are at a point where they’re ready to receive help can make a dramatic change in their lives with the right support and clinical intervention.
“It is key they have to be at a point where they’re ready to be getting help and a crisis sometimes spurs that in somebody’s life so we want to take the opportunity and seize it,” he said.
Vagnier says despite pushback at the beginning, they’ve had good relationships with their neighbors.
“We’ve had really good relationships with our immediate neighbors and we’ve tried to respond to their requests around privacy. We’ve enhanced some of those things like frosting on the windows and more vegetation to screen what’s going on, and that’s really just at their request, being a good neighbor,” he said.
Vagnier says he sees the facility as the front end of the opioid crisis in the community.
“We’ve got to do a lot of work in prevention. We’ve got to do work when people are in crisis, but on the back end we’ve got to be helpful to people who need treatment longer than what we can provide here. And thankfully the state of Tennessee under the governor’s leadership is adding resources to that end.”