Mental Health Cooperative to open first West Tennessee clinic in 2023
For 30 years, the Mental Health Cooperative has been helping Tennesseans living at or below the poverty line get treatment for severe mental illness. Now, the nonprofit will be opening its 11th clinic, this one in Memphis. It will be the first in West Tennessee.
The clinic will offer a comprehensive range of mental health care services for children and adults, including substance-abuse treatment, psychiatry services, therapy and care management offerings to connect patients with wraparound services like housing, transportation, food, dentistry and primary care services.
Amanda Bracht, senior vice president of Mental Health Cooperative, said Memphis was a logical next location because of the high number of TennCare recipients and uninsured individuals in Shelby County.
“There are other mental health centers down there that do good work, but I think there’s just such a need in the community,” she said. “We feel that our model of care…helps us to fill some of the gaps in the area and just be another resource for the community.”
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The full-service, community mental health center is expected to open this spring at 3430 Summer Ave., in a currently vacant building between Family Dollar and a row of thrift stores. Mental Health Cooperative has 10 other locations, all in Middle or East Tennessee.
The clinic takes all TennCare plans and also treats those who are uninsured. The nonprofit was founded three decades ago with the aim of serving low-income populations and today, 99% of its patients are on TennCare, according to August Geeter, who will be executive director of the Memphis clinic.
Geeter has worked in mental health care in Memphis since 2006 and has seen the need for additional mental health resources in the community.
“I’ve worked here in the community in hospital settings, outpatient settings, I’ve been in private practice, I worked for the jail system,” Geeter said. “Regardless of what system you see those familiar faces, you see those people cycling back through, you see those people that continue to decompensate. So it is very pressing.”
A Memphis location had always been coming, for Mental Health Cooperative. CEO Pam Womack is from Memphis and has always wanted to see a clinic opened in her hometown, Geeter said. As the nonprofit has grown, it has also shown what it can add to a community.
“We’ve had such great success in Middle Tennessee, in East Tennessee, the payors are saying, ‘hey, Memphis needs this type of service,’” Geeter said.
And the successes in Middle and East Tennessee have been notable, Bracht said. Established to serve those living with serious and persistent mental illness, now, less than 1% of people engaged in their outpatient treatments are admitted to psychiatric hospitals each month.
“Our team-based model, where they have a case manager who works with them in the community to address those those psychosocial issues, those things that they need just to have equality of life during the day, paired with…the medical component with the psychiatry component, we found leads to success,” she said. “These are folks you know, who have really serious mental illnesses. So we know that that comprehensive model works.”
Mental Health Cooperative also works closely with primary care providers in the communities they operate in to help patients get care to manage issues like hypertension, diabetes and other common conditions. In addition, they also work with police in Nashville to help address calls involving people with mental illness.
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Some clients will come through referrals, others by word of mouth. Geeter said the clinic will also have a hospital engagement specialist whose role will be to connect with hospitals about which soon-to-be-discharged patients might be in need of mental health help.
Look to not only diagnose and treat mental illness, but help people know that rick and fulfilling lives can be led
“It’s about building that relationship. You know, I can’t help you through this until you can trust you know, so we, again, that’s that old fashioned sit down with the consumer. Let’s just talk and then we’ll work through whatever issues you’re having, and we’ll help you navigate through that through building that relationship,” Geeter said.
One example of those relationships involves a longtime patient who recently died due to cancer, Bracht said. She lived with a serious mental illness and experienced long periods of homelessness. She had also never had a primary care visit in her life. Because of the relationship the staff at the clinic had with her, they were able to convince this patient to get a primary care visit.
Due to a routine exam, she was diagnosed with cancer and the Mental Health Cooperative was able to set her up with a treatment plan and accompany her to chemotherapy. While she beat cancer the first time, it came back and ultimately killed her. The MHC raised money to ensure she had a proper burial and the clinic was closed for the day to make sure everyone could attend the services, Bracht said.
For Geeter, that story and other examples of people listing MHC as their next of kin on legal forms, speaks to the type of compassionate relationship they foster with patients and what they will bring to the Memphis mental health landscape.
“I want people to know that they will get that same caliber of service here in the Memphis area,” she said.
Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development and healthcare for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached via email atCorinne.Kennedy@CommercialAppeal.com