The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
As Governor Bill Lee’s special session approaches, bills are being filed, and local and state officials are looking to seize on the opportunity to capitalize the event for the use of projects that they otherwise may not have gotten adequate support for.
Some of these projects coalesce, where an idea on the state level comes together with another from the local level and the premise for a project is born. In most cases, this is where these ideas get stuck, because they tend to be the sort that cost tens of millions of dollars. However, because we are entering a special session, it presents a unique opportunity to possibly get access to funds and make these projects a reality.
This appears to be the case with a piece of legislation proposed by Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka-District 64) and a proposal from Knox County Commissioner Kyle Ward.
Both Cepicky and Ward are proposing an initiative to help combat the homeless problem in Knoxville, where reports indicate that 800 of the city’s citizens live on the street.
As data has historically shown, a large reason for homelessness is due to mental illness, which then can lead to an additional substance abuse problem, both of which can keep a person from having the ability to be a functional, productive member of society.
Commissioner Ward’s proposal asks that 20 million dollars, that had previously been set aside to partially pay for a pedestrian bridge to be used for those who attend UT Knoxville as they come from their work and residences, be repurposed for a mental health care facility for the residents of the Knoxville area. Ward says this particular benefit is currently absent from the city.
The bridge in question, if constructed, would be the third of its type and was part of other plans, such as the redevelopment of the Neyland Stadium area into an “entertainment district” and the expansion of UT housing into South Knoxville. The bridge project is at a standstill because the federal grant they applied for to finance the rest of the plan was not successful.
According to reports, Ward said, “The hospital will serve as a regional center for mental health in the region as well. So, ideally, if this were to be able to stand up, we could do more preventative care and we can have better access for our local citizens.”
Representative Cepicky has seemingly adopted Ward’s inclinations for such a venture with his filing of House Bill 7006 (HB7006), which in summary reads, “As introduced, authorizes the department to direct available state funds to contract with additional private service providers across the state to provide inpatient psychiatric services for uninsured individuals in this state; requires the department to report to the speakers of both houses on whether additional inpatient psychiatric services are needed in the City of Knoxville and whether additional state funds should be expended for the construction of a state-owned and -operated inpatient psychiatric facility in the City of Knoxville. – Amends TCA Title 33, Chapter 1, Part 3.”
The question that may be in the minds of Tennesseans with a project like this is, ‘would repurposing this funding for what on its face seems like a worthwhile endeavor enable the state to avoid expanding Medicare and Medicaid, and flooding the state system with federal dollars?’
If that is the case, it is likely that many people in the state, who wish to avoid having Tennessee’s mental health care system co-opted by the federal government, would be in support of proposals such as these.
We will follow the story as it develops, and report any important updates as they are made available.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.