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Concerned Neighbors Ask Leaders to Change Behavioral Health Center Location

During a community meeting Thursday night, countless questions and concerns were raised about the proposal to build a Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center in West Knoxville to provide treatment for low-level offenders with mental illness.

People who live less than two miles away from the center, proposed to go off Dewine Road, asked city and county leaders to move the plan to a different location.

Officials with the Helen Ross McNabb Center believe it is the most cost effective to keep the proposal set for that property.

Other neighbors brought up concerns regarding safety, security and long-term benefits for the center during a meeting with local leaders including Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Knox County Sheriff "JJ" Jones and CEO of The Helen Ross McNabb Center Jerry Vagnier.

"Truth is these are non-violent folks who we can do so much better as a community and a society, and that is what I am attempting to do," Burchett said after the three hour long meeting.

While there are many opposed to the idea, there were a few who voiced their approval of the project, including Donna Towe who lost her daughter to mental illness.

"She ended up, the last three years of her life, spending two years and two months in the Knox County Jail for child support. She was nonviolent, she had one misdemeanor, a small little thing when she was out. She had been out of jail for eight days when she passed away," Towe said about her daughter Taygan Towe.

Towe believes the center will be extremely beneficial, especially for other families dealing with mental illness.

"The justice center is badly needed. The last time I checked Knoxville was a whole community not segregated, It didn't matter where it went. I would gladly have it in my front yard," Towe said.

Still, many neighbors insisted to have the project moved.

The Knoxville and Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission is expected to vote on the health center proposal on March 9 at 1:30 p.m.

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