Betty Bean files this report regarding Knox Co. Mayor Tim Burchett's effort to get state funding for a behavioral health urgent care unit (a/k/a safety center) that would provide alternative treatment for people coming in to the Knox Co. jail system with mental health and addiction issues.

The facility has funding from the county with buy-in from City of Knoxville Mayor Rogero. Gov. Haslam had previously promised state funding but has apparently backed out.

The always quotable Mayor Burchett is not pleased and is speaking out in no uncertain terms, noting that about half of inmates with mental health issues are veterans. And East Tennessee veterans have no bigger supporter than Mayor Burchett.

I recall going to one of the ETSPJ legislative luncheons a while back and meeting then State Senator Burchett for the first time. In his remarks at the luncheon, he mentioned back then that county jails are the state's biggest mental health hospitals. I recall thinking that he's right that this is wrong and there's something I like about this guy. Anyway...

Betty Bean: Burchett Angry at State's Failure to Help Mentally Ill

(It also appears that Mayor Burchett is not a big fan of Nashville, the TV show. We will have to agree to disagree on that, but I get what he's saying about funding priorities.)

Anonymousdjdjdjdjdno's picture

I like this guy. Good for you

I like this guy. Good for you Tim.

fischbobber's picture

Tim is right.

This was a great article, and right on the money.

But, after I put it down and thought about both Burchett's and Haslam's policies over the course of their careers, I asked myself, "What did they think was going to happen?"

This is the natural progression of both their political philosophy and fiscal policy. It's neat to get lip service, but it was the homeless veterans turn in line to get screwed, so screw them. Until people wake up and demand change, every budget, someone else who does not have the resources to fight back will get shafted. Homeless, children, elderly, the sick, they're all just people to we will make suffer in order to keep taxes low and funnel welfare money to private corporations.

Government functions for the wealthy in Tennessee, not the citizens.

reform4's picture

If not for the veterans...

If the homeless and mentally ill didn't include veterans (and a growing population of them, thanks to W), it's unclear if the issue would get as much Republican support.

But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth- good for Tim speaking out strongly, and I agree with his criticism of Nashville 100%.

And the point about not having money while giving $8M to a TV show is 100% spot on. That's a talking point that needs repeating. "Haslam / Legislature favors Hollywood over Veterans"

To cross-link to another thread, that's another reason I like Lee Tramel's take on the issue- when he talks about the mentally ill, he never brings up the veteran issue. The mentally ill appear to be all equal and deserving to him, which is a good thing.

Bbeanster's picture

To cross-link to another

To cross-link to another thread, that's another reason I like Lee Tramel's take on the issue- when he talks about the mentally ill, he never brings up the veteran issue. The mentally ill appear to be all equal and deserving to him, which is a good thing

The main thing with the sheriff's department employees is relieving jail overcrowding.

B Harmon's picture


Does anyone have the actual dollar amount or percentage of the KCSO budget that goes directly (or indirectly) to the care of the mentally ill?

If/when these people do get diverted to another setting, will the budget for the KCSO be decreased by that amount and the money diverted to the new setting for operating costs?

Treehouse's picture

A good question

The saved money needs to go to the new setting. But there is currently no guarantee.

B Harmon's picture


I have no doubt that there will be a reduction in personnel or in their budget. In fact, they will likely ask for more money for some other reason. The "empire" will never get smaller.

bizgrrl's picture

accused the governor of

accused the governor of breaking his promise that funding would follow the patients after he shut down Lakeshore Institute in 2012.

I never thought they would replace Lakeshore Institute. Just one more step in putting pelple on the street.

jbr's picture

The pure capitalism, run it

The pure capitalism, run it like a business, less government model looks like it will always have a hard time with things like mental health.

It looks like their solutions are destined to be "smoke and mirrors"

Sandra Clark's picture

complex issue

Bean is right -- it's about jail overcrowding, but 3 days is not enough time to do much more than sober up a drunk.

In Haslam's defense, he worked pretty hard on solutions for chronic homelessness during his first term as mayor.

fischbobber's picture

Haslam's homeless plan

Haslam's homeless plan was to direct public money to the private sector via distressed property. Any help to the homeless was purely by chance. Follow the money.

Sandra Clark's picture


I don't believe this, Bob. It could easily have been Haslam's most idealistic project, shot down by NIMBYs.

fischbobber's picture

Teabury site

You are wrong. What did you and your reporters find when you did a site check at Teabury? It was quite possibly the worst public money proposal in the history of Knoxville, and, except for a drainage issue on Gleason which Mayor Rogero addressed, still sits as it was proposed. Go look at it. Hassle's proposal didn't offer these folks a chance to even have a fair shot at existence, and, as much heat as I got for asking about bribes (there were none ) That was and still is the natural reaction to any reasonable site check then, and now. It was not, and is not suitable, for a residential facility for folks dependent on walking or public transportation. There were never even any plans put forth for a flashing light in the landing area from the old thrill hill (you used to could go airborne, now it's just a real dangerous place) where Teary dumps into Gleason. It was a plan to kill the homeless via predictable circumstance. And the NIMBYS you refer too have plenty of unused low-rent housing quite suitable for section 8 funding and the homeless already built surrounding the proposed plan. There just wasn't a way to steal government money from the taxpayers to fund it. The reporting on the issue was some of the worst in the history of Knoxville and it appears that legacy lives on.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

It is walkable.

Take umbrage with the case management of that old plan instead of the walkability of that area, Bob. High School students walk to and from the apartments on that road AND across Kingston Pike. I know you don't believe it because we had this conversation back then, but they do. It's a non point anyway since qualifying for that level of housing would make you eligible for special transportation.

Does Knox County need more sidewalks on the streets connecting old neighborhoods? Yes. Will it happen? Nope. We're not getting anything that benefits walkers in a town where people drive to their mailboxes. We were never going to get the tobacco settlement money that the sweet FOLI ladies prayed so hard to get for better mental health facilities either.

fischbobber's picture


I must admit, our differences on this issue have confounded me, so, I took to my trusty friend, Google Maps, to try to figure it out.

You are correct in your assertion that the neighborhood (and the apartments it holds) is within walking distance to Bearden High as well as being correct in noting that there are several other apartment complexes (including section 8 housing suitable for families) within walking distance to the school. You are also correct in your assertion that many (depending on the daily circumstance) take advantage of this.

However, I believe there is a disconnect when we speak of the proposed Teaberry site and the rest of the neighborhood.

First, the proposed Teaberry site is in the extreme southeast corner of the neighborhood at the bottom of a huge sinkhole that continues to sink. (As we remember, this is why the project was cancelled. During the course of the due diligence, forced by those of us looking closely at the project, we found that Mayor Haslam put forth a plan that wouldn't pass building codes.)

Second, the natural ingress and egress for any north and eastbound travel would be Beaverton, as opposed to the natural route for Bearden High, which would be Elderberry. As someone who drove for 25 years for a living, I can honestly say I don't care for the pedestrian crossing at Downtown West/Elderberry/Gleason, but I must concede that you are correct in the sense that it is not the guaranteed death trap that the Beaverton/Gleason crossing is.

Frankly, I missed both these points in the original discussion, and while it really doesn't change anything in terms of the validity of the project (simply put, the drainage on the roads servicing the neighborhood preclude reasonable foot traffic during poor weather), it does make a great point that the neighborhood could actually be served by a pedestrian infrastructure upgrade that included a plan to incorporate permanent placement of the homeless.

There were other factors as well, crosswalks, traffic calming, sidewalks, trolley service, and covered bus stops that would have been necessary to make the project a success, but as we remember, then Mayor Haslam's position was that there would be no infrastructure upgrades and that the infrastructure in place was suitable for the project. He was and is wrong and Mayor Rogero has already addressed two of the problems by planning greenway access, and working on the drainage problem. Strategically placed sidewalks and crosswalks were and will be necessary for this neighborhood to survive as a pedestrian enclave. I firmly believe this. How many pair of shoes should we demand a person own?

This is an extremely hilly area and some spots are at best challenging to live in if one was dependent on walking. Basic and reasonable infrastructure fixes would go a long way in making the neighborhood more walkable.

But, on your larger point that people are indeed making do and walking to school, you are correct
In my haste, I overlooked your obvious points of reference and judged the whole neighborhood by the Teaberry location. The Beaverton and Elderberry points of ingress and egress are indeed quite different and I failed to consider your points (which would appear to address the Elderberry intersection) when I addressed the Beaverton intersection. That was quite a careless error on my part and I apologize.

fischbobber's picture

More on walking.........

Whenever I drive Gleason, I do a site check for improvements needed and a little cost/benefit analysis on various ideas that pop into my mind on various things I notice.

I presume due to this weeks weather pattern, something that has escaped me became noticeable. Through the drooping weeds I noticed something. There is a thin narrow footpath snaking down Gleason from the end of the 7900 block all the way to the sidewalk behind Bearden High. Depending on season, weather and light conditions , one could consider it anything from passable to treacherous, but it's there, none-the-less. I do not know if the path would fall on city right-of-way or if the users would technically be trespassing, but clearly there is a need for a safe pedestrian walkway along this stretch of road.

To your point that it is walkable, I would have to say absolutely and obviously people are walking this route often enough to wear a path in the dirt so clearly there is enough foot traffic to support this path and keep it noticeable.

My point would be that its existence demonstrates an obvious need that isn't being addressed. Mayor Rogero has thus far done a great job with limited resources (paint and signage) to address needs of greenway access and walkability. As a parent, I would demand my child walk the route from Elderberry through Downtown West and back to Bearden through the gate behind the shopping center, but I'm not sure access is available through this gate to the school. In addition, since I don't have access to any wildlife inventories in the area, I don't know if how big a problem ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes are along the corridor. If the bat and opossum populations are in line, these pests should have a decent amount of natural controls.

It would appear that it is time to consider this need in terms of budgeting it into future city projects.

Edit for relevant link: (link...)

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