Community Calls for Budget Changes to Prioritize Crisis Services

Photo: Aim Center, 472 West Martin Luther King Boulevard, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photo: Courtesy of

Published January 18, 2021

Coping with the collateral damage from Coronavirus may have side effects for all of us. Heightened levels of stress in response to our rapidly changing and uncertain world seems absolutely natural. 

Throughout the nation, people are reporting exacerbated and budding mental health issues. Anxiety and depression rates are steadily rising whether due to lost employment in lockdown, debilitating isolation from healthy routines and relationships, or general uncertainty in the face of cultural chaos. 

It is estimated by the CDC that these rates have tripled over the course of the last year due to COVID-19.

Chattanooga, Tennessee At Night

This reality became particularly relevant in recent community calls for 2022 budget changes to include better support for mental health resources in Chattanooga.

Mayor Andy Berke announced that although his term will have ended, he will propose this  to his successor who can then accept or deny it.  

Berke offered some sentiment stating, “When we worry about our health outcomes, when we are often physically estranged from others and when we are concerned about the future, mental health suffers.”

While it is promising to see the issue prioritized for the next fiscal year, in the meantime, Tennessee residents may have more opportunities to receive support than they realize. 

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) reports that Tennessee offers a full continuum of crisis services from a 24/7 phone line to statewide mobile crisis, walk-in centers, crisis stabilization units, and more. 

Chattanooga has a wide variety of outpatient options for residents with insurance, but just as well, crisis services are available at no cost to those without coverage from all surrounding counties. 

Many of these services are provided through Volunteer Behavioral Healthcare Systems, but there are several other wonderful agencies in town.  

Aside from crisis care, Tennessee also provides a fantastic service for those who are eligible, seeking mental health support, and are unable to obtain other insurance coverage. 

X-Files Style - The Truth Is Not Out There

The TDMHSAS website provides this description and provides a simple application:

“If you are 3 years of age or older, have a qualifying mental health diagnosis, and have no behavioral health insurance, you may qualify for the Behavioral Health Safety Net (BHSN) of TN program. Services provided by this program include assessment, evaluation, diagnostic, therapeutic intervention, case management, transportation, peer support services, psychosocial rehabilitation services, psychiatric medication management, labs related to medication management and pharmacy assistance, and coordination.”

These contemporary standards of behavioral health services are provided in communities through the state, but Chattanooga is also home to a hidden gem. 

AIM Center Inc. is the only internationally accredited clubhouse model program in the state. They provide a revolutionary approach to mental health, fostering independence without offering medication or counseling services. 

A Clubhouse is a free, community-based membership organization aimed at helping people living with mental illness around the world regain a respected place in society through work, education, wellness and community.

At this time, membership is available for free to anyone with an active and eligible diagnosis. The non-profit is able to provide services to those with TennCare coverage as well as some others via grants and donations. 

Perhaps upcoming changes in the budget will allow the organization to expand their scope of services to include individuals without said coverage.   

Presently, services are being offered virtually throughout each weekday. 

To learn more about the program and how you can get involved, check out their website at or contact the Admissions Office at (423) 702-8013.

If you or a loved one are in need of more immediate assistance, Mobile Crisis Services are available 24/7/365. 

Dial 855-274-7471 and you will be routed to a trained crisis specialist in your area.

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