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Making Mental Health a Priority in Our Region

Posted on October 23, 2018

In this edition of Full Circle, I’d like to focus on a service that is a very important part of Covenant Health and our communities: Peninsula, the behavioral health division of Parkwest Medical Center.

Peninsula has long been an important provider of behavioral services in our area. Our inpatient and outpatient mental health resources have helped thousands of people recover from disorders and dependencies and lead healthy, productive lives.

Peninsula Hospital is located in Blount County, with outpatient centers in Knox, Blount, Loudon and Sevier counties. Additionally, Peninsula provides care for senior adults with co-existing psychiatric and medical conditions at the Senior Behavioral Center at Parkwest Medical Center.

When the state closed Lakeshore Mental Health Institute several years ago, Peninsula stepped up to meet new challenges in providing services for an expanded number of patients. After the closure of Lakeshore, the hospital’s inpatient numbers increased by over 10 percent per day.  

We invested about $300,000 in renovations to the hospital’s physical plant, and several areas were redesigned to enhance the flow and delivery of care. Staffing was increased to handle the increases in volume and acuity of illnesses.

In recent years Peninsula has continued to offer many programs and services for those facing the challenges – and often the stigma – of mental illness. For example, Peninsula developed an internal process to enroll patients in CoverRX, a state-funded program for prescription coverage. Peninsula representatives meet with a community providers group including representatives from local law enforcement, hospital emergency departments, and agencies that serve clients dealing with mental health issues. It also participates in crisis intervention training for officers from area police and sheriff’s offices.

Peninsula offers outpatient therapy for individuals and groups, recovery education, and a special program for women facing addiction who do not have insurance. Recently Covenant Health honored Peninsula for initiatives that help clients obtain affordable medications and arrange transportation to treatment locations. These initiatives help reduce hospital readmission rates and provide patients with the support they need to achieve goals and fulfill dreams.

Funding for mental health services is limited in Tennessee, and Covenant Health operates Peninsula at a financial loss to our system. We are committed to providing excellent care for our patients who need mental health services. In addition to operating dollars provided by Covenant Health, Peninsula receives support from the community as a United Way agency.

Another way the community can support Peninsula is the annual Artsclamation! fine art sale. Proceeds from Artsclamation! have been used to purchase a van for peer support services, playground equipment for pediatric patients, medications for patients, and comfort rooms for Peninsula units.

This year’s event is Saturday, Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lighthouse Knoxville on Baum Drive. Artsclamation! showcases regional artists who work in a variety of media, and we welcome Chattanooga painter Ann Nichols as the 2018 featured artist. Local artist Hugh Bailey also will be recognized as recipient of the 2018 Founder’s Award for his long-time participation.

Admission is free and I hope you’ll join us at Artsclamation! to help those in need of behavioral services in our community.