SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - It's a topic that isn't always talked about until someone close to you needs it -- metal health care and the ways people can get help.
It's actually something the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office discusses often, because officers drive about 30 patients a week to mental health facilities.
Sometimes those trips are locally to Woodridge in Johnson City, other times they're farther away. "Once Woodridge is filled up, we end up at the Peninsula hospital outside of Knoxville, or all the way down to Chattanooga. There are two hospitals there," says Captain Paul Taylor with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.
Here's a breakdown of Sullivan County transports for 2013: Out of the more than 1,100 transports, about 26 percent were out of town.
To compare, Washington County, Tennessee had 258 transports with 50 percent out of town.
Captain Taylor says Sullivan County has a lot more because it's responsible for three hospitals: Holston Valley, Indian Path and Bristol Regional Medical Center
We're told some of the Sullivan County transports are not Sullivan County residents, but because they are in hospitals in the county, it becomes the job of the Sheriff's department to do the transport.
On Monday E. Douglas Varney, the Tennessee Commissioner of Mental Health, stopped by Sullivan County. We asked about mental health care in Tennessee.
Varney believes it's actually getting better for East Tennessee residents since the state closed Lakeshore Hospital in Knoxville in 2012.
Varney says it brings more money to the local hospitals and allows patients to stay closer to family and friends. "We worked out an arrangement to Woodridge to take patients here in the Tri-Cities area, and again they handle probably 80 or 90 percent of all people that need psychiatric hospital commitments in Johnson City," he explained.
Commissioner Varney says the state has a crisis hotline for people in need of mental health help. That number is 1-855-CRISIS-1.
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