Commissioners support planned medical clinic

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County Commissioner Courtney Durrett clarifies the planned medical center is meant to be a “landing facility” without long-term care. Photo by Moira Charnot.

Knox County Commission seemed ready Monday to join hands with the City of Knoxville to open a new medical facility at the old St. Mary’s Hospital property in North Knoxville.

While the planned facility will offer only limited treatment, it will hopefully address a major shortage of medical options in the community — especially for those needing behavioral health care.

Commissioner Courtney Durrett stressed, however, that the facility won’t provide long-term treatment for those patients.

“This is more of, for lack of a better term, a ‘landing facility’, to give these people immediate treatment and then figuring out where to go from there,” Durrett said.

The project was discussed at Commission’s Monday afternoon work session at the City-County Building. It was introduced by Durrett, Commissioner Dasha Lundy and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

“We think this is a great opportunity, this is a need in our community, and in the end, we’ll actually end up saving all of this money as well as helping to address a serious issue in Knox County,” Jacobs said. 

The planned medical clinic will be in a building left over from the defunct St. Mary’s Hospital complex at 1515 St. Mary Street. Officials hope the facility will free up bed space in currently packed and overwhelmed hospitals throughout Knoxville.

Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell explained the City of Knoxville will purchase the building from its current owner, LHT Knoxville II LLC, for $1.747 million. The County would reimburse the City for half the costs, and the two governments would then work together to develop the facility.

Commissioners seemed to be enthusiastic about the plan, citing the need for an increase in mental health services in the Knox County area.

“This concept and the operation of this model is greatly needed,” said Commissioner Randy Smith. “A facility like this, where a patient can go to get the direct care they need—this is a model that I fully endorse.”

Commissioner Larsen Jay wanted more details on how patients will be treated. Caldwell explained that the center will handle acute care cases at the “front” of the house but those who need help with a behavioral health problem can also receive treatment in another part of the building. 

“This has an urgent care component to it. So, if there’s somebody in the community has been hurt or has some sort of injury, they can come there and get help,” Caldwell said. “While that acute care is also important, if somebody comes there with a mental health issue, they get to go through that process first and we can make sure that all protocols are going through.”

Moira Charnot can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on October 19, 2021.