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Peer Support Center Update from NAMI-TN

The Governor’s originally proposed budget for 2012/2013 cut the Tennessee Department of Mental Health’s (TDMH) funding for Peer Support Centers by $1 million. Peer Support Centers are a vital link in the supported recovery of persons with severe and persistent mental illness. They make a significant difference in the thousands lives of people in Tennessee who are living with mental illness and in their families lives (Please see below).  Partial funding of $2.3 million had been approved at $1.3 million had been approved, but champions in the Senate and the House came through with budget amendments, most notably Senate Budget Amendment #397 which was sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey with additional signees. Over 400 amendments were presented for consideration for funding in the budget. 90% of the Amendments were dismissed in the first round of discussion. Senate Budget Amendment #397 made it through, but unfortunately did clear the second round. That is when Commissioner Doug Varney’s plan came into play.

Tennessee mental Health Commissioner had proposed the closing of the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in East Tennessee. The physical facility was sorely outdated and in need of repair. The decision was made to close Lakeshore which put $6 million dollars back into the mental health budget. That was fine for budgetary considerations, but there were and are lives impacted by the decision, especially for those seeking services for mental illness treatment in East Tennessee. Twenty-five forensic patient beds that were lost from Lakeshore will be made up with new construction at the existing Moccasin Bend facility in Chattanooga.  Building in Moccasin Bend instead of at Nashville’s Middle Tennessee Mental health Institute as originally planned, saves $1.1 million in construction costs. This makes up for the shortfall for Peer Support Centers. It is anticipated that this be included in the Governor’s appropriation bill and will be signed into the budget the week of April 30th. This is a real success for the all the advocates from NAMI Tennessee and other agencies and legislative offices that worked so very hard over the last month to convince the legislature of the value of the centers.

The supportive peer-to-peer environment results in earlier recognition and  intervention of psychiatric crisis leading to fewer hospital admissions and building skills towards recovery from a severe and persistent mental illness.

  1. Supported employment opportunities have allowed peer center members to move forward in their recovery from mental illness into private and public sector employment.

  2. Transportation provided by  centers to members in rural areas may be their only means to mental health support.

  3. Peer Support Center services are free and are available to persons who do not have insurance making them accessible to a broad range of people in need.

  4. The cost benefit of funding  a person’s peer support activities at $4 per day versus the cost of a hospital admission at $600 per day, or the impact of persons with unsupported mental illness on the criminal justice system, is simply a more efficient use of taxpayer monies.

When you support Community Shares in workplace giving you are supporting groups like NAMI-Tennessee. To find out more information about the programs and services NAMI-Tennessee offers visit their website.

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