State representatives hold mental health discussion at Moccasin Bend

Local leaders eager for new mental health facility budgeted for $270 million

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Marie Williams said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic led to a 45% increase in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression throughout the state.

With those numbers on the rise, the state believes it’s time to modernize its care at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute.

Moccasin Bend serves mental health patients from 52 counties in East Tennessee.

Founded in the 1960s, authorities say Governor Bill Lee has big plans to rebuild for the future of the state’s mental health.

“We’re here talking about plans hopefully to do something new here and provide a brand-new facility that Governor Lee has put money into — 270-some-odd-million dollars,” said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

When asked what new amenities a new facility could bring, Williams said there’d be vast improvements for mental health patients.

“The things that they could see is a lot more room in the patient area where they could have more space to be able to get involved in their treatment,” Williams said. “You’re going to see places in our bedroom areas and bathroom areas that are really fit for the new standards in hospitals.”

As cases continue statewide, Sexton also addressed the stigma behind mental health, saying it shouldn’t exist against those simply looking for help.

“Everybody needs some form of recovery,” Sexton said. “People have different issues and this shouldn’t be something that divides people or puts a certain mark on them. It should just be something that we as a state and as a body look at trying to help them through these instances.”

Sexton called mental health a growing crisis not just in Tennessee, but throughout the nation. He was grateful for time with local authorities to discuss how to better provide for those in need moving forward.

“It’s great to come here and visit with this facility, visit with the commissioner and the staff here to talk about how we can continue to provide these services but also provide them with [the] highest quality and new facilities,” Sexton said.

Also in attendance was State Representative Patsy Hazlewood (R – Signal Mountain), who said although the building is “old and outdated,” the work and care inside is anything but.

She also believes a new, efficient facility benefiting both taxpayers and citizens could be much “more effective.”

There is no current timetable for this project.

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