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This item appeared in The Times & Free Press on Sunday, April 9, 2000.

[Times & Free Press: Closing Bend May Cost More]

Closing Bend May Cost More

Staff Writer

The proposed closing of the Winston Building at Moccasin Bend may save the state an estimated $1.6 million, but it may cost the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, said Sheriff John Cupp.

The sheriff said his jail already holds some people who would normally get treatment at the state mental hospital at Moccasin Bend.

He said he knows of about "40 individuals in the jail that 10 years ago would have been in Moccasin Bend."

That situation could get worse if the Winston Building, which houses the chronically mentally ill, were closed.

Some 40 to 50 of those patients would be moved to the main building under the state's plan, said Harry Ray, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees. Some 20 to 30 patients would be placed in local mental health facilities.

"Those facilities are not equipped for such patients," said Mr. Ray, who predicted it would cost $7 million to $8 million to construct a new building somewhere for those patients.

Without new facilities, more people who need mental health care might end up in jail.

Transportation costs will increase, too, Sheriff Cupp said. State law gives his department the responsibility of transporting people with suspected mental problems whenever law enforcement or ambulance crews are involved.

Instead of taking those people to Moccasin Bend, the department would have to transport them to state facilities in Knoxville.

Hamilton County routinely uses two officers to transport one person. The sheriff said his department's Crisis Intervention Team makes 1,000 trips locally each year.

"We would not be making that many trips, but we don't know what the number would be," said Sheriff Cupp. "The proposed move at Moccasin Bend might save the state some money, maybe not. But look at the potential adverse impact of departments like ours. This could impact us significantly."

Mr. Ray said he is pleased with the support that Moccasin Bend has received from the area's state legislative delegation.

At a recent committee meeting, Sen. Ward Crutchfield and Reps. Tommie Brown, Bill McAfee, Arnold Stulce and Brenda Turner said the Winston Building should remain open, said Mr. Ray.

"In fact, we have obtained signatures supporting the Winston Building remaining open from 15 area representatives, five senators and several chiefs of police and sheriffs," Mr. Ray said. [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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