Pilot program to treat instead of jail mentally ill

The state-funded pilot program, which hasn't yet begun, provides a way for a judge to order comprehensive outpatient services for people with "mental illness or severe emotional disturbance"


By Kristi L. Nelson
Knoxville News-Sentinel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When he saw the news in December 2007 that a 25-year-old man with a history of mental illness had shot two people at a West Knoxville restaurant before himself being killed by police, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett — then a state senator — said he thought a law might have helped.

Burchett had already been pushing for Tennessee legislation supporting court-ordered assisted outpatient therapy (AOT) for people with severe mental illness. The measure would be patterned on New York's Kendra's Law but without the expense of creating the statewide infrastructure that is part of that law.

On Friday, he stood in front of Helen Ross McNabb Center with Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville,) Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville), Tennessee Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Doug Varney and McNabb CEO Andy Black to announce that the law he long wanted took effect July 1 — and McNabb Center would pilot a program that could later be expanded statewide.

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