Tennessee needs more facilities for those with mental health issues, says a top Republican state lawmaker.
More mental health funding will likely be a major issue in next year’s legislative session.
Violent events not far from the state capitol this past year could help define a major issue next year.
“The shootings at Waffle House. The shootings around the country,” said Rep. Glen Casada. “I think we need to re-direct funds and go back to facilities, beds, professional staff because I don’t think what we are doing now is working.”
Several state-run facilities have closed in recent years in favor of a more community-based approach to dealing with mental health patients. There’s been an uptick in recent years to fund mental health care for those who cannot afford it.
“We have seen a slight increase in that to take care of those who are uninsured, who are below poverty, and that has been a great benefit for many Tennesseans under the Haslam administration,” said Amanda Bracht with the Mental Health Cooperative.
Stopping a suspected Waffle House or school shooter before the violence is the complex question, but lawmakers know the conversation must be had about what to do, especially in a state seen as needing more mental health professionals.
“We have an obligation,” said Rep. David Hawk. “These are some of the folks that are having issues that many of us don’t understand, but we need more facilities, more hands-on care for these individuals.”
Representative Casada says money from the state surplus might be a way to pay for increased mental health needs.