Knox county leaders are one step closer to developing a safety center for the mentally ill.
 
The project has been in the works for years, but a new legislative session means another chance for lawmakers to allocate money to the project. 
 
State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and state Rep. Eddie Smith filed a bill this week requesting $1.5 million each year for the next three years to fund the safety center. In the past, it was unclear who would fund the project, but the new bill asks for funding from the governor's budget. 
 
 
The safety center would provide treatment for non-violent offenders dealing with possible mental health issues or drug-related problems instead of jail time. 
 
"I would hope that the public would see what we're trying to do," said Mayor Tim Burchett, who was in Nashville Monday advocating for the center. "It saves money. It takes care of the least amongst us which are the mentally ill at this time, and it provides them a safety net, keeps them out of the court system, out of the jails, and it does it in a very libertarian manner." 
 
Burchett said if the funding bill does not go through, lawmakers will have the chance to try for a budget amendment toward the end of the month.