News Article Details

Gov. Lee proposing $15 million to address mental health, substance abuse, suicide prevent efforts

Chattanooga Times Free Press - 2/27/2019

Feb. 26-- Feb. 26--Updated at 5:19 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced a $15 million plan to boost Tennesseans' access to mental health treatment as well as expand suicide prevention efforts in a state he says has a "shockingly high" suicide rate.

"The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety," Lee said in a news release. "By prioritizing our mental health safety net and suicide prevention, we are caring for more Tennesseans and building healthier communities."

Lee is proposing $5 million in new, recurring funding to provide coverage for an additional 7,000 uninsured Tennessee adults through the state's Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which provides several essential mental health services.

The governor is recommending an additional $6.2 million in recurring funds to address cost increases and higher demand at the state's four regional mental health hospitals, including Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga.

Lee is aiming to ensure they have resources to continue to provide high-quality care to Tennesseans with the most significant psychiatric needs.

Meanwhile, in an effort to support Tennessee's work in recovery courts and alternative sentencing, Lee also wants another $3 million for the Creating Homes Initiative. Since 2000, the program has created more than 20,000 quality, permanent housing opportunities for people living with mental illness.

The administration says the additional money will expand recovery housing options for Tennesseans struggling with substance abuse.

"In addition to measures that address substance abuse and mental illness, we are tackling Tennessee's shockingly high suicide rate that is now 20 percent higher than the national average," Lee said. "There is tremendous opportunity to engage public-private partnerships as we work to prevent suicide and save lives."

To do that, Lee is proposing a $625,000 recurring investment to expand the state's partnership with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network and establish a new regional outreach model.

Another $500,000 in recurring funds will go to state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services efforts to focus on interventions at the community level using evidence-based practices.

Lee is expected to formally unveil these and other recommendations in his proposed 2019-2020 budget that he will present next week in his first State of the State address to the General Assembly.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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