New Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center OpensPosted: 3/19/2018
The long-awaited Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, initially referred to as the Safety Center, officially opened today. For more than 10 years, Knox County and City of Knoxville leaders have sought solutions to jail overcrowding and serving individuals with serious behavioral health needs. In 2016, Knox County Government issued a request for proposal to develop and manage a Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. The Helen Ross McNabb Center, a regional, nonprofit provider of behavioral health care services, was awarded the contract.
The goal of the Behavioral Urgent Care Center is to provide an alternative to jail for qualified low-risk, non-violent offenders who, in the opinion of the arresting officer and a medical professional, have exhibited signs of mental illness and/or substance abuse, and for who treatment, rather than incarceration, would be beneficial. It is estimated that 10 percent to 25 percent of the inmates in the Knox County jail are severely and persistently mentally ill. When the RFP was released in 2016, Knox County was conducting approximately 4,000 arrests per year for public intoxication. Fewer than 80 individuals account for 25 percent of these arrests. The anticipated community benefits to opening the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center include, reducing jail bed days and recidivism, increasing treatment opportunities, and using existing community resources more efficiently.
District Attorney General Charme Allen stated, “Ultimately, we want to address the underlying cause of crimes committed by individuals with untreated mental illness and substance abuse disorders to reduce recidivism. If it is in the best interest of the community and the individual to receive treatment instead of being incarcerated, then that is what we want to happen. The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center provides law enforcement and my office with an option that didn’t exist before.”
The Office of the District Attorney General’s Office played an active role in identifying intervention points within the criminal justice system and setting the parameters for which an individual would qualify for the services provided at the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. The nine qualifying low-level misdemeanor charges are Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest, Criminal Trespass, Underage Consumption, Obstructing Sidewalk, Misusing 911 Calls, Aggressive Panhandling, and Public Indecency.
The urgent care center is a 24-hour, 16-bed facility designed to connect individuals to needed behavioral health services like assessments, counseling, addiction treatment, and a discharge plan for additional, continued services in the community. Service providers expect each individual served will stay at the urgent care center for approximately 72 hours.
The Office of the District Attorney General will continue to work closely with the Helen Ross McNabb Center and local law enforcement to preserve community safety through this new intervention. General Allen went on to say that everyone in our community wins if this new program is successful.