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Neighbors Concerned as New Behavioral Health Facility Opens in Northwest Knoxville

The streets are quiet in a northwest Knoxville neighborhood off of Ball Camp Pike. Birds chirp and wind chimes provide a soothing sound. But among neighbors, there's a lot of talk about who moved in down the street.

"I can't lie, I wish it wasn't in my neighborhood," said Susan Acevado, a neighbor who lives just up the road from the newly opened Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. "Let's say somebody attempts to escape from there and there's shooting and everything going on, that could be complicated."

Acevado has lived in her home for more than five years. She's worried the new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center just down the street will bring unwanted attention to the neighborhood.

"I am a little concerned about it but I’m hoping that it turns out to be a good deal," Acevado said.

"Treatment is the first step to getting them back to where they should be."

County leaders opened the facility last Friday and it began accepting its first patients Monday morning.

The center will serve as an alternative to jail, providing treatment for people suffering from mental health problems and those addicted to drugs or alcohol. The center is located on the edge of a residential neighborhood.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office says it will be secure.

"There will be a deputy sheriff in this building 24-7, 365 days a year," said Randy Nichols with the Knox County Sheriff's Office. "This is going to be a tremendous benefit to the citizens here because you will see, we believe, more police presence, less time off the road making the arrest."

Not all neighbors are against the facility opening in their neighborhood. For people like Dakota Sawyer, the new view from his front yard is welcomed.

"It's a place for people trying to get help, and I think that's important," Sawyer said. "I think any action to try and help people out of whatever bad place they might be in, I think that's important and we as a community should embrace that idea."

Neighborhood leaders said they plan to continue meeting with county commissioners and the sheriff's office to ensure their concerns are heard. That includes asking for more fencing to be added around the building.

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