Advocacy – Historical Perspective

For more than seventy years, the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee has been the leading voice in advancing the construction of our public and private mental health system.

These mental health systems must be responsive to the needs of our community; 20% of our population needs mental health care in any given year, while 51% will need treatment within their lifetime. A dependable service delivery system must advance to readily provide specialized services when needed.

Seventy years ago, mental health focused almost solely on housing patients at Eastern State Hospital in often overcrowded conditions. Eastern State Hospital became Lakeshore Mental Health Institute which was closed in 2012. Today, care can be accessed in an array of hospital and residential settings, in outpatient treatment at community mental health centers, in private settings with a physician or counselor, or in support programs led by peers.

The creation of new programs and services can be attributed to our persistent advocacy efforts to improve mental health services. A few of these include:

  • Started the Patient Advocacy Program at LMHI
  • Established Friendship House Peer Support Center
  • Expanded jail-based mental health services
  • Reformed the TennCare Drug Formulary to include standard of care medications
  • Created a Law Enforcement Training Program with Knoxville Police Department
  • Partnered with Ridgeview, Helen Ross McNabb Center and local law enforcement to create two Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) training law enforcement officers
  • Secured funding for six Crisis Stabilization Units across Tennessee
  • Secured funding for Medically Monitored Detox services across Tennessee
  • Advocated for the creation and expansion of Behavioral Health Safety Net Services across the state to serve persons un-enrolled from TennCare
  • Partnered with other advocates to secure pre-arrest diversion treatment services funding to establish services across Tennessee

Current Advocacy Perspective

Building a behavioral health system which meets the needs of our community.

Our advocacy work involves us in numerous system issues at the local, state and national levels. Far-reaching efforts include:

  • Changing enrollment in Medicaid or Medicare
  • Co-occurring mental health and substance use treatment needs
  • Access to in-patient residential treatment and after care
  • Access to essential supports and services
  • Prevention of unnecessary incarceration and more

Advocacy Organizations We Are Involved With

  • Tennessee Coalition for Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
  • Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network
  • Tennessee Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services Planning & Policy Council
  • East Tennessee Commission on Children & Youth
  • KAPPI (Knox Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative
  • Behavioral Health Awareness Coalition
  • Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Alliance
  • East Tennessee Crisis Intervention Team
  • Knoxville – Knox County Crisis Intervention Team
  • Knoxville-Knox County Homeless Coalition

The Mental Health Association offers all services to eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin or disability.

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