Checking in on the Behavioral Urgent Care Center

By Mike Steely

The Knoxville Focus recently asked Jerry Vagnier, president and CEO of Helen Ross McNabb Center, how things are going at the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. The facility, located just off Western Avenue at 5203 Ball Camp Pike, opened in March following a well-attended ribbon cutting.

Funded by the state, county and city the Urgent Care Center occupies part of a renovated building that once served as a church. The creation of the center came after several years of effort by citizens who wanted diversion, not jail, for mentally ill offenders and those with a drug addiction.

Jessica Hill, director of community relations for Helen Ross McNabb, responded to The Focus inquiry with answers from Vagnier.

“The Helen Ross McNabb Center is pleased with the progress of the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. From opening on March 19 through May 24, 10 weeks of operation, we have seen roughly 90 clients. While the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center contains 16 beds, we have been intentional in slowly increasing the number of clients to ensure we are providing the best possible services,” Vagnier said.

“Intake, discharge and follow up continue to go smoothly. Approximately 80 percent of the people referred to us by the police and sheriff’s departments have been accepted into treatment at this facility. This shows we are appropriately assessing whether a person needs treatment or needs to go to jail. About 82 percent of our referrals are from the Knoxville Police Department,” he added.

Adjoining the Urgent Care Center is a separate facility which houses and treats a different client who is there voluntarily.

“The second half of the facility houses our crisis services, which includes the Mobile Crisis Unit and Crisis Stabilization Unit. The Mobile Crisis Unit provides a 24-hour crisis response for individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Through the MCU, staff provide assessments, triage and access to the appropriate level of care for the person in need,” Vagnier said.

“The Crisis Stabilization Unit provides short-term treatment and access to services to prevent psychiatric hospitalization. This service is provided on a voluntary basis to adults who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis,” he said.