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Leaders break ground on behavioral health center

The center will provide treatment to non-violent offenders who are addicted to drugs or dealing with mental health issues.

A Knox County project in the works for years is now officially underway as public officials broke ground on the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center Friday.

The center will provide treatment to non-violent offenders who are addicted to drugs or dealing with mental health issues. The goal is to keep those people from jail and get them the help they need.

City, county and state leaders joined with the Helen Ross McNabb Center for a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday. The facility will be built on Dewine Road in West Knoxville. It is expected to open as early as January 2018.

Gov. Bill Haslam attended the event, and said the center will benefit both its patients and Knox County taxpayers.

"For too long we've put people that had mental health issues or substance abuse issues in jail, and it is neither the more economic nor the most compassionate thing to do," he said.

Haslam said Tennessee falls at the bottom of the list nationwide when it comes to dealing with substance abuse issues.

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