This statement has been prepared by and is being shared by the collaborative team that is supporting the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, which opened in March 2018 at 5302 Ball Camp Pike:
The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center
June 25, 2019
The purpose of the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center (BHUCC) is to divert adults from jail and the criminal justice system who could be appropriately served in the community in lieu of incarceration. The target population is non-violent offenders with mental health and/or substance use health conditions.
The first year of operation yielded very positive results:
• Nearly 500 citizens with mental illness and substance use disorders were diverted from the Knox County Detention Facility
• The population served were largely uninsured (74%)
• Many of them were homeless (59%)
• 79% had a mental health diagnosis
• The recidivism rate for re-offending was nearly half of the expected rate
• The connection to aftercare or ongoing treatment was phenomenal at 65%
The advisory committee (Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Knox County District Attorney’s Office and Helen Ross McNabb Center) have reviewed the data and believe the first year was a considerable success.
The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, 5302 Ball Camp Pike
Changes Affecting the Future of the BHUCC
The local criminal justice system is developing new methods to address jail overcrowding. A pretrial risk assessment tool and process has been implemented to increase the number of defendants eligible for Pretrial Release. Law enforcement is also being encouraged to give citations to low-level misdemeanants in lieu of arrest. While reducing the jail population, this also reduces the incentive for misdemeanants to choose BHUCC over jail.
Despite these changes, our community still needs to address and prevent non-violent, low-level misdemeanants with complex mental health/substance abuse diagnoses from committing chronic nuisance offenses. Without mental health and substance abuse intervention, the BHUCC target population will likely commit new criminal acts and become “frequent users” of law enforcement resources in the field as well as emergency rooms.
Our community has two needs: 1) keeping the original target group from committing chronic offenses and consuming public resources; AND 2) alleviating overcrowding at the jail.
Adults in our community with mental health conditions too frequently encounter the criminal justice system and unfortunately do not utilize services in the community. Community models already exist with good evidence of success for this population- known as Assertive Community Treatment.
Future BHUCC Services:
The advisory committee recommends the BHUCC continue with a modified diversion program at the current facility and offer community-based (off-site) post-incarceration intensive services to allow inmates to be released with monitoring, treatment, and accountability.
The BHUCC would reduce its residential emphasis and enhance its community-based services to provide effective community monitoring and treatment. It is recommended that a mental health court (docket) be established to provide the front door to this new service. A mental health court hears cases in which the offender has a known mental illness. The judge uses both therapeutic and judicial directives to affect positive behavioral changes in the offender.
The ideal evolution of the BHUCC allows law enforcement officers to provide citizens with mental illness access to care AND allows inmates access to community-based intensive services with monitoring, treatment and accountability.
These services will reduce entry into jail and increase release from jail – investing in compassionate and effective strategies to best serve the target population and reduce jail overcrowding issues facing Knox County.