City, county, and state leaders hold first of its kind mental health workshop


Knoxville City Council, Knox County Commission, and members of the Knox County State Delegation are hosting a joint workshop on mental health on Monday, May 9th. Led by Knoxville Vice-Mayor Andrew Roberto, Knox County
Commission Chairman Richie Beeler, and Senator Becky Duncan Massey, this first of its kind discussion brings legislative representatives from the city, county, and state together to learn more about mental health services in our community.

What: Joint City, County, State Mental Health Workshop
When: Monday, May 9th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, 400 Main Street, Knoxville, TN 37902

Workshop includes presentations from:

  • Commissioner Marie Williams, Tenn. Depart. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Jerry Vagnier, CEO of McNabb Center
  • Liz Clary, Vice President of Covenant Health Behavioral Services
  • Ben Harrington, CEO of Mental Health Association of East Tennessee
  • Dr. Bruce Spangler, CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center
  • Randy Nichols, Knox County Sheriff’s Department Special Counsel
  • Tony Benton, CEO of Tennova Healthcare East Market

“I am looking forward to the joint mental health workshop.” Senator Massey Continued, “I’m pleased when our Knox County State legislative delegation, members of our County Commission, and City Council can work together to develop strategies to address the mental health needs of individuals in our community.”

            –  Senator Becky Duncan Massey

“The issue of mental health affects every one of us in some way, and dealing with it effectively requires a comprehensive effort.” Beeler continued, “Getting these three groups together for this workshop, along with agencies that are actively involved in mental health services, is a very important step toward doing that.”

            –  Richie Beeler, Knox County Commission Chairman

“Mental Health isn’t just an issue in Knoxville or Knox County, this is a critical issue for everyone.” Roberto continued, “I want to thank Senator Massey and Chairman Beeler for their assistance with our joint workshop, this discussion on mental health wasn’t possible without their commitment and support.”

            –  Andrew Roberto, Knoxville Vice-Mayor

Comments Provided by Presenters:

 “With 40% of Knox County residents in need of some mental health care, the challenge to access and coordinate mental health affects all sectors of our community. Without care, our citizens experience undo anxiety and suffering. Without coordination, our community expends duplicated resources in emergency responses. The mental health workshop lead by Councilmember Roberto and Commissioner Beeler will provide an opportunity to cast light on service gaps and identify paths to permanent solutions.”

            –  Dr. Bruce Spangler, CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center

 “I look forward to working with elected officials on the evolving mental health needs Of our community. It’s time to make a good mental health system GREAT!”

            –  Ben Harrington, CEO Mental Health Association of East Tennessee

“The Sheriff’s office is pleased to participate in the mental health workshop. So many of the people we deal with suffer from mental health issues and we must find a better way to offer assistance. The Knox County Detention Center is the largest mental health facility in East Tennessee and there are much better ways of dealing with this population rather than using our jail and all the resources attached to their care and treatment. We can and must do better!”

            –  Randy Nichols, Special Counsel to Knox County Sheriff Department

 As part of our mission to improve the quality of life in our region, Covenant Health and Peninsula, our behavioral health division, have a long-standing commitment to mental health services. “All of our services offer unique opportunities to help individuals and wrap our support around them. Our goal is to help people with mental illness lead more productive and autonomous lives” said Liz Clary, Covenant Health vice president of behavioral services

            –  Covenant Health

 “Mental health is fundamental to our success as a city and county. By coming together to discuss the needs in our community, we are taking positive steps to ensure mental wellness remains a priority,” said Jerry Vagnier, McNabb Center CEO. “We applaud the City of Knoxville and Knox County leaders for working to address concerns and focus on the community’s mental wellbeing.”

            –  Jerry Vagnier, McNabb Center CEO

 “Throughout the pandemic, Tennova saw the need for behavioral health services grow significantly with more than 160 deaths by suicide in the East Tennessee region alone. Tennova’s new partnership in The Knoxville Center for Behavioral Medicine will help to bridge the gap of services needed for some of our most vulnerable patients. We are hopeful as we all work together that we can support this critical need that has continued to grow in our community.”

            –  Tony Benton, CEO of Tennova Healthcare East Market