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New west Knoxville psych hospital to help with mental health care shortage, could reduce homelessness

An opening date is set for 2021.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Undeveloped land at the corner of Dowell Springs Boulevard and Old Weisgarber Road in west Knoxville could soon be home to a new $33 million dollar psychiatric hospital.

Knoxville-Knox County planning passed the rezoning for the almost ten acre property Thursday night. Acadia Healthcare is behind the project, along with Covenant Health. 

The rezoning application says it will be a 90 bed psychiatric hospital.  

Many are hopeful it could help relieve the shortage of mental health care providers in East Tennessee and also help reduce homelessness. 

"For the homeless population it is a significant cause of homelessness," Michael Dunthorn with City's of Knoxville's Office on Homelessness about how mental illness impacts homelessness.

Lack of mental health resources cause a number of problems for a community, "Having those available to serve people who are at risk of or are homeless is very important," said Dunthorn. 

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He says a new psych hospital could help reduce homelessness in the area overtime. 

"People struggling with depression, or any range of mental issues... that creates a barrier to be able to deal with other things they need to address to stay in housing or get back into housing once they become homeless."

The rezoning application states the facility will be an acute-care psychiatric hospital with 24 hour monitored care of people in crisis.

Officials with Covenant Health believe the new hospital will administer much needed additional mental health resources that have been lacking since Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closed in 2012.

State standards say there should be 143 inpatient psychiatric beds in Knox County, but currently there are only 38.

Covenant will be surrendering 54 licensed psychiatric beds at Peninsula in Louisville and Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, saying in a statement quote, "When Acadia approached Covenant Health about its intent to build a new behavioral health hospital in the Knoxville area, we wanted to partner with them in this endeavor."

An opening date is set for 2021. The plans now move to city council to be approved.