Sickness or sin?

Sandra Clark

Neighbors battle over mental health facility

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones want to divert nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders with mental health issues to a 24-bed urgent care center for psychiatric treatment rather than take them to jail.

Burchett has patched together a funding package through partnerships with Helen Ross McNabb Center, the state and the city of Knoxville. Officials, starting with then-Atty. Gen. Randy Nichols, have worked eight years on this, and now it’s at risk of blowing apart.

A crucial use-on-review vote comes before MPC on Thursday.

I’ve written more on this for the Karns edition, which you can read online, but last week’s public meeting was mind-bending.

After a mother told of her son’s adult-onset schizophrenia, a man stood to say, “It’s not a ‘sick’ problem, it’s a ‘sin’ problem.” He said offenders should go to jail and added that we’re just becoming too soft.

It’s probably the first time Tim Burchett has been called “soft.”

Neighbors have legitimate concerns about the location of such a facility, but surely no one in 2017 can question the need and the moral imperative for it.

Let’s build this center.

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