Tag Archives: varney

State Opens First ‘Recovery Court’ for Prisoners

Next month, in the quiet Morgan County city of Wartburg, the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, along with the Tennessee Department of Correction, will open what the state says is the nation’s first statewide residential Recovery Court, reports the News Sentinel.
The 24-hour, 100-bed facility, which opens its doors Aug. 1, will allow the state to divert people with substance abuse or mental health issues from prison beds, with the hope of halting the cycle of hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness that plagues many.
In a November budget hearing meeting with Gov. Bill Haslam, Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney laid out such a plan as being a humane and cost-effective way to deal with what he sees as one of the state’s biggest problems. In 2011, he told Haslam, for the first time ever, the state saw more people seeking treatment for narcotics addiction than for alcoholism — and the state’s system was sorely taxed.
“A large number of people in jails … their core problem is really drug abuse,” he said. Such an intensive program could “change their (lives) before they ever get that far.”
TDOC estimates the average daily cost to house a prison inmate at just more than $67. The Recovery Court residential program, even being more service-intensive than existing programs, will cost an average of $35 per person per day, the state said. But it also will, in theory, save money by reducing recidivism — “repeat offenders” — by using “evidence-based” programs “proven to have a larger impact on reducing recidivism.”
The state said studies have shown the recidivism rate for people who participate in such programs is one-third that of those who don’t.
However, it should not been taken as the state going “soft on crime,” TDOC Commissioner Derek Schofield said.
“What it says is that we’re going to place people in the best option to ensure they don’t re-offend. But also, we’re going to make sure we have a prison bed available for people who commit violent offenses that harm our communities,” he said.

TN Mental Health Commissioner: Evil Does Exist

From Hank Hayes in Kingsport:
Tennessee Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney says there are no quick and simple solutions to prevent a repeat of mass murderer Adam Lanza’s actions.
“The vast, vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous,” Varney, former president and CEO of Gray, Tenn.-based Frontier Health, said when asked for his take on the Connecticut school shootings.
Killers, Varney pointed out, have more complicated mental health issues.
“Mostly what we do is try to protect vulnerable people as opposed to being concerned about them being dangerous,” Varney explained. “Obviously someone (like Lanza) who does something like this would have to be a disturbed individual. … This isn’t scientific, but evil does exist. People do evil things. There is really no explanation to it other than it is really wrong.
“I would say that the real key is recognizing when someone is displaying odd or aggressive behavior, and approach them whether it is a teacher or counselor or pastor or family member to just go ahead and confront the person and try to get them in to get professional help. … We need to take personal responsibility to deal with people we are concerned about. … We need interventions with individuals as opposed to a broad sweep of things.”

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Varney Makes Pitch to Knox Commissioner for Closing Lakeshore

From the News Sentinel’s Mike Donila:
Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney told county leaders Wednesday if the state closes Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, it would reinvest $20 million in the region and patients would not be dumped onto the streets.
In an hour-long meeting with the administration and the Knox County Commission, Varney detailed his proposal to close the Lyons View Pike Center. The idea, he said, would be to help more people with the money the state currently spends on the 2,200 who pass through Lakeshore’s doors. Under the plan, which would need the General Assembly’s approval, Lakeshore would close by the end of June.
Officials would give the facility’s 350 employees each a $3,200 severance package and two years support for college. Varney said he expects most doctors and nurses to find positions at area mental health providers, and the state would help others find jobs at local agencies and state-run facilities
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Haslam on Lakeshore Closing: ‘I think this is the right approach’

From the News Sentinel:
Gov. Bill Haslam indicated Tuesday he is inclined to push ahead with a proposal to close Lakeshore Mental Health Institute — a day after Knox County commissioners said they would ask state officials to step in and keep the facility’s doors open.
Haslam told the News Sentinel the proposal made by state Department of Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney in mid-November was part of a “top-to-bottom review” of his department, which the governor ordered all commissioners to conduct.
Haslam said the final decision to proceed with closing the Lyons View Pike center will be made “in four weeks or so,” and he left the impression he would follow Varney’s recommendation.
“From everything I understand, I think this is the right approach to take,” he said. “The question is: Can we help more people more effectively? It seems to me that we can.”

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Knox Commission Opposing Lakeshore Closing

The Knox County Commission has decided to ask a number of state leaders, including Gov. Bill Haslam, to delay closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute for at least two years, reports the News Sentinel. They also agreed to seek a meeting with Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney, who some said has not returned their calls..
The commissioners unanimously backed the proposal at Monday’s work session, with an official vote to come next week.
Officials said they are concerned the community doesn’t have enough programs to serve many of the patients who end up at Lakeshore. They also said they expect a rise of mentally ill in the homeless and jailed populations if Lakeshore closes.
State Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, commended the commission and said he’d look into what could be done. He said a complete shutdown could create an “additional burden and additional costs” to city and county coffers.
Meanwhile, the commission also agreed to send a letter to the local legislative delegation requesting that members oppose any proposed changes that would weaken the state’s Open Meetings Act. They’ll further discuss the measure during next Monday’s regular meeting.

State to Close Lakeshore Mental Health Institute

From the News Sentinel:
Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney has announced that closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute on June 30, 2012, is part of plans for changing mental health in Tennessee.
Varney said community services will be expanded by leveraging three existing contracts with private psychiatric mental-health providers in East Tennessee: Covenant Health (Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center); Mountain States Health Alliance (Woodridge Hospital of Johnson City), and Ridgeview Community Mental Health Services of Oak Ridge.
“Moving these mental health services into the community where our patients live allows them to start the process of recovery near family, friends and local community mental health support services,” Varney said in a statement. “Our intent is to promote care that is of the highest quality and delivered in the most efficient and effective way. We believe this new model accomplishes those goals.”
Varney said the changes are part of a national trend to close state facilities, owning to improved medications, shifts in public policy and studies that show community-based services have better outcomes. He said Peninsula, Woodridge and Ridgeview “have been serving this population effectively, efficiently and successfully through the current contracting process and are committed to begin accepting new admissions.”

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