A proposal to serve the uninsured battling mental illness

By: Kelsey Gibbs

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee has proposed to pour money into mental health services across the state. Lee is proposing an additional $15 million-plus for three initiatives that focus on mental health treatment and suicide prevention.

One area of focus would treat the thousands of uninsured people in Tennessee who are struggling where their mental health is concerned.

“I am battling with deep dark depression,” said Deborah Warrick.

It was something Warrick says she would have never said out loud, that she has a mental health disorder.

“My oldest sister she said we have mental health issues; we need to go to the doctor and I said if you want to be crazy than that’s your problem, but I said I’m not going.”

That was until she found herself living on the streets last year and needing serious help. Now, once a week, Warrick meets with her therapist at Mental Health Cooperative.

“The first thing that I know that therapy really helped me with is being okay with Deborah,” said Warrick.

Warrick’s sessions and treatments are funded through the Behavioral Health Safety Net.

“It is a program for the non-insured residents of the state of Tennessee that would provide behavioral health coverage,” said Marsha Thompson, Safety Net Supervisor for Mental Health Cooperative.

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse says 1.3 million Tennesseans have some sort of mental health issue.

But 33,000 people like Warrick have no way to pay for treatment.

“Currently, we have about 2400; anywhere from 2400 to 2700 at any given time that we’re responsible here in Mental Health Cooperative,” said Thompson.

Now the program could be helping thousands of more people. Governor Bill Lee proposed to increase the funding for Behavioral Health Safety Net by $5 Million dollars.

Last year, the program served 32 thousand residents. This additional revenue can help about 7 thousand who are uninsured.

“More lives we’ll be able to serve,” said Thompson. Lives like Deborah Warrick.

“I can grow now in many different areas in my life,” said Warrick

The program has served more than 156,000 individuals since inception on July 1, 2005.