NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Starting Saturday, a 24/7 mental health center is open in Nashville, offering treatment for those in extreme mental distress.
The idea is to take the people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and bring them to the center for treatment rather than taking them to spend the night in jail.
The goal of the Mental Health Cooperative is simple: to provide help for those who feel like they don't have any other way to seek mental health treatment.
“Someone who's feeling suicidal, homicidal, or psychotic. So, someone who may be having hallucinations or feeling very paranoid,” said Mental Health Cooperative Crisis Counselor Brandi Griffis.
She says they go out and do patient assessments, which can happen anywhere ranging from gas stations to bridges.
Anyone can call the center and report something.
It also serves as a pre-arrest type facility, so instead of police taking the person to jail, they bring them to the center.
Griffis says there's a 10-minute goal.
“When police arrive with a patient, our goal is to have them out of here within 10 minutes.”
Tricia Benitez says this center opening is a blessing for Davidson County because we shouldn't punish these people for being sick.
“If somebody has cancer, we don't arrest them. We rally together, band together, figure out what options are the most viable to get them treatment,” she said.
Benitez suffers from mental health issues herself; she had a damaged childhood and ended up homeless.
“I lived with my dog in a truck. I had no home, no shower, no nothing.”
She eventually sought help, and now she's a treatment specialist at Addiction Campuses, which partners with the crisis treatment center; the two facilities refer patients to each other as they see fit.
The new facility runs on grants, so it's completely free for patients and they don't have to have insurance.
“Mental illness has become more prominent and it's more recognized as an issue. People are willing to come forward and say, "I need help," and that's what we're here to do,” said Mental Health Cooperative Mental Health Technician Jeff Fellers.
The new center is a psychiatric emergency facility, not a general emergency room. Griffis stressed that if you have physical injuries and need physical help, you should call 911 instead.