Report: Tennessee now ranks 28th in nation for mental health services

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A new report showed Tennessee is improving how it helps people needing mental health services.

The report published by Mental Health America showed Tennessee moved up eleven spots in responding to the mental health needs of its citizens. The state is now number 28 using statistics from 2017 and 2018.

Tennessee’s Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said in the last two years, the governor and legislature added almost $38 million new dollars to the state system.

“This report shows great gains for the state of Tennessee, and that’s without including the impact of recent advancements and expansion in state services.  Just in the last two years, with the support of Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly, we have expanded our Behavioral Health Safety Net to cover more uninsured adults and to cover uninsured children for the first time,” said Marie Williams, LCSW, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “They have funded things that truly impact the health and well-being of individuals in our state. For example, the behavioral health safety net for adults where we’re serving now 138-percent of the federal poverty level or below. In last year’s report we actually touched 39 thousand Tennesseans that were struggling with a mental health issue through that program.”

She said they explained to state leaders that it’s an aspect of Tennessee worth investing in.

“First thing we say is look it’s a return on investment. We know that for every dollar invested in services, you are going to reap seven dollars back. In addition, it’s a return on investment as it relates to future generations because we know if there’s untreated mental health or untreated substance use addiction, it’s going to move forward in more generations,” said Commissioner Williams.

She said the state still needed to do better in bringing mental health and addiction services to where people are located. They’re using grant money to pilot a mobile unit for rural communities.

“While Tennessee has made tremendous strides compared to other states, the report also highlights the need to improve better access to those services, which is why Mental Health America of the MidSouth provides online screenings, advocates for telehealth, and goes into schools and businesses to promote whole health, social-emotional health, suicide prevention, and workplace wellness,” said Tom Starling, Ed.D., CEO of Mental Health America of the MidSouth.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide can call the statewide crisis line at 855-CRISIS-1.

Click here to read the full report.

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