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Knoxville votes to approve agreement for new behavioral health center at the old St. Mary's Hospital campus

Mayor Jacobs proposed the project during Monday's county work session, saying it would help serve a critical need within the community.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — As work continues to rework the old St. Mary's Hospital site in North Knoxville into the new home of the Knoxville Police and Fire departments, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is proposing adding a new behavioral health crisis center there.

"This addresses a need - it doesn't solve it, but it certainly puts another tool in our toolbox that is greatly needed," Jacobs said.

On Tuesday, the Knoxville City Council voted to approve an agreement between the county and the city to begin planning and development of an urgent care behavioral health facility at 1515 Saint Mary Street.

The city and county agreed to split the costs for purchasing the property, which comes in close to $1.75 million. The agreement said American Rescue Plan funds would be used to pay for this. 

Jacobs proposed the project during Monday's county work session, saying it would help serve a critical need within the community and help local hospitals provide better care to people going through a behavioral health crisis.

"All of the hospital systems are participating and excited because they see this as helping alleviate strain on their emergency departments," Jacobs said.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said there's been a gap in healthcare in North Knoxville ever since Physicians Regional Medical Center (formerly St. Mary's) closed in 2018.

"Every type of household has those mental health needs, just like we have physical health needs," Kincannon said.

The McNabb Center said the new facility needs to be something that anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, can access for care.

Jacobs said this addition would allow people to save money.

"So, it's diverting them away from the emergency department into this facility which will help them get the care they need," Jacobs said.

The city of Knoxville said it would take about two years before it would be able to open the facility. 

The health center would be located near the new Knoxville safety complex, which will serve as the combined headquarters for KPD and KFD, as well as city court, pension and backup E-911.