State cuts funding to Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center; county, city step up

Madisen Keavy # State

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center is getting funding support from city and county after state grant ends.

Known during construction as "The Safety Center," BHUCC will receive $840,000 from Knox County and $560,000 from the city of Knoxville for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. These funds were requested by Helen Ross McNabb President and CEO Jerry Vagnier and approved.

BHUCC opened in 2018. During the first operational year, 75% of funding came from a grant through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The nonrecurring funding was aimed at helping Tennessee communities build infrastructure development that reduced or eliminated the number of individuals with mental illness, substance use, or co-occuring disorder, that would enter the criminal justice system.

The grant supported community-based treatment, like that at BHUCC.

"Really, [we] had almost a $3 million operating budget which will move to a $1.4 million operating budget... which necessitates some reduction in staff,"
said Vagnier.

The operational funding from the Dept. of Mental Health was approximately $1.8 million for operations, for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Knoxville and Knox County provided operation funding of about $1 million. Those contributions from the city and county have grown since the state funding ended.

"We'll continue to serve people who have no ability to pay for services, that doesn't change for the urgent care center. As a crsis provider, we're going to be there for people in their most difficult place,"
said Vagnier.

Vagnier said 74 percent of people treated at BHUCC were uninsured.