New Crisis Center to Serve Nashville’s Mentally Ill

By Roxanne Squires

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new 24/7 walk-in crisis center opened in Davidson County to ensure that those under extreme mental distress will receive the treatment they need as an alternative to putting them in correctional custody.

The new 20-bed center operates as a pre-arrest diversion facility — touted by the city as a correct step towards stability for those in need of emergency help — whether that be an individual experiencing suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts or a psychotic break.

It is estimated that over 1 million Tennesseans age 18 or older have a mental health or substance abuse disorder, and at least a quarter of those have a serious mental illness, as reported by the Tennessean.

To address this issue, the center facilitates a crisis walk-in center, a crisis stabilization unit and crisis respite. It will also function as the headquarters for Davidson County’s mobile crisis response team.

The program is aligned with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Behavioral Treatment Center at the new jail, but the new crisis center offers something different: it will help people who are suffering from a mental crisis but haven’t necessarily committed a crime to receive treatment.

According to the Tennessean, police spend at least 5,000 hours a year — that’s between two and three full-time police officers — responding to someone in crisis – and because police are required to stay with a person in crisis until they have a secure place to transfer from custody, at times it can take all day to transfer a patient into a mental health facility.  

In response, this facility works to enable a seamless intake process to reduce both the wait time of the law enforcement officer and the patient.

According to Mental Health Cooperative Crisis Counselor, Brandi Griffis, anyone can call the center and file a report. There are also various ways people can access the Mental Health Co-op’s new crisis center to get help—whether that be walking in alone, with the assistance of a loved one or having been dropped off by a law enforcement officer.

Griffis also stated that there is a ten-minute goal in mind during patient intake, meaning that once officers arrive with a patient, they want to have them out within ten minutes, as reported by Fox 17 News Nashville.

This will allow officers to spend less time in the booking process and more time responding to other calls of crisis.

Those who are brought to the center by a law enforcement officer will enter through a designated, secure entrance at the backside of the building.

The building also features a separate receiving area and padded safe room areas to prevent self-harm.

Patients are then taken through the main entrance, where they check into a small lobby area. 

The patient is then brought to a small intake room where their belongings are logged and secured, and a staff member will inform them of what to expect.

From there, they’re taken to either of the building’s two larger spaces — one for those who are involuntary commitment patients and another main treatment space for those who have come in voluntarily. 

Each space has large comfortable chairs, television, and plentiful space to roam.

Patients will have be able to meet with any of the current 20 members on staff—including nurses, crisis counselors and treatment specialists.

Small private rooms also surround the open areas for therapy sessions, individual assessments or those who need quiet time.

Ultimately, city officials believe this center will address the current mental health crisis, enhance public safety and reduce recidivism rates.

Nashville-based Smallwood Nickle Architects served on the design team with officials breaking ground on the new crisis center in March 2018, and opening the center January 2019.

Reports from the Tennessean and Fox News 17 Nashville contributed to this story.