NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Officials from the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) are working to expand mental health services. They said it’s an issue other communities are seeing well beyond Nashville and the biggest concern right now is getting help for younger people.

“We know nationally that youth and young adults really at some of the highest incidents for mental health issues and not everybody has insurances, not everybody can get where they need to and this community like many other communities doesn’t have enough mental health providers,” said MPHD Director Dr. Gill Wright.

Dr. Wright told members of the Metro Council during a recent budget committee meeting the department’s behavioral health director is a psychologist and the health department also has one counselor. He said traditionally they have not done a lot of mental health care but they’re finding more and more people need help and it’s taking longer to get it.

Dr. Wright explained that right now, people have to wait about a month or longer to get their first appointment with a mental health provider at the health department. MPHD is requesting funding for two behavioral health counselors for the department.

Another effort being expanded is pairing officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) with mental health cooperative clinicians. MNPD announced this month it is expanding the program to the Midtown Hills precinct. This is the fifth precinct to join the program since it launched in June 2021.

MPHD shared a one-year snapshot of the program’s impact. During that time, there were 1,500 calls. Of those calls, a little more than 4% resulted in arrests and less than 2% involved use of force. Between June last year and March of this year, about a third of the calls resulted in services provided on site, 25% involved transportation to the emergency room, and 11% refused resources.

Dr. Wright said it may soon be time to address the hours for which the clinicians are available because it’s currently not 24/7.

“The money for the counselors comes through our department. The plan is to expand two more precincts this coming year. We’ll continue that until we’ve got it in all precincts,” said Dr. Wright. “At that point maybe we need to then think about and council can think about expanding the time that they’re available because they are on a restricted time frame.”