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Closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute proposed

11:55 PM, Nov 10, 2011   |    comments
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If state lawmakers approve, the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in west Knoxville will close by June 2012.

That news came to employees of the institute Thursday in an email from Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney.

Varney said he will discuss the proposed closure when he presents his budget recommendations to Governor Bill Haslam next Tuesday.

In the email, Varney said the state must reduce dependence on state institutes by shifting resources to in-patient and out-patient providers in communities.

"The foundation of our budget proposal is based on a philosophical belief that our system of providing care to the citizens of this state must undergo a major transformation," Varney said. "I feel strongly that persons with mental illness and alcohol/substance abuse issues should be treated in the communities where they live.  Over the past ten months, we have been moving in the direction of a system transformation by evaluating all components of our Department, including the RMHIs.  In order to move forward with the department's objectives, we must realign how our resources and dollars are being utilized."

Varney pointed to budget-driven downsizing of state hospitals in the past. "If we are to be successful in a transformation of services, we must position ourselves to more effectively care for Tennesseans with mental health issues," Varney said.

Varney said he and his staff will work with senior leaders at Lakeshore to address all issues that will affect the institute and its staff.

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