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Tennessee Mental Health Services Guide

Many people don't realize that publicly-funded mental health services are available in their state. People looking for free or low-cost counseling often think their only options are counselors in private practice and don't know that publicly-funded providers in their communities may also offer counseling services. 


While state-based programs are not for everyone, they are often a great place to start for people who face geographic or financial barriers to therapy. Intake specialists at community mental health programs can help people learn whether they qualify for state-funded services and can refer people who don't qualify to other low-cost programs that may be able to meet their needs.



When Should You Go to a State Mental Health Program?

Few mental health providers outside of those in the public sector are able to immediately serve people in crisis. This usually makes public mental health services the best option for anyone who is having a mental health crisis and needs help right away. The people who answer crisis lines can offer caring attention and support as they help people determine the best response to a crisis, whether it's inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.

In most cases, community mental health programs serve as alternative providers for people who lack the means to access services in the private sector. In Tennessee, this includes people who have private insurance but either have no mental health benefits or have exhausted their mental health benefits for the year, as long as they meet income and other requirements.

According to Mental Health America, Tennessee ranks 45 out of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) for access to mental health care. Despite investing in its mental health system and successfully reducing hospitalization and homelessness, Tennessee has made it hard for many residents to access care by refusing to accept Medicaid expansion and maintaining strict income requirements for public mental health services. The state also has a shortage of qualified mental health professionals. According to SAMHSA, only 43 percent of people in Tennessee with mental health conditions get treatment for them.

Even if you are not sure you will qualify for services, there is little risk in calling a local or statewide crisis or information line to ask. The crisis lines are a free service and counselors at local crisis walk-in centers often have alternative referrals and recommendations for people who aren't eligible for the Behavioral Health Safety Net or TennCare. If you're not finding the care you need, you can search for free or low-cost counselors on or try affordable online counseling at BetterHelp (a sponsor). You can also search the provider list on the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations website. The help you need may be closer than you think.


Who Is Eligible for Public Mental Health Services in Tennessee?

To this date, Tennessee has not accepted Medicaid expansion, which means that many Tennesseans do not qualify for Medicaid even when their income is below the poverty level. In order to qualify for Medicaid in Tennessee, adults generally need to have a disability or minor dependent children in addition to poverty-level income. To qualify for the Behavioral Safety Net Program, adults in Tennessee need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 or older 
  • Be a Tennessee state resident
  • Be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien
  • Have a qualifying mental health diagnosis
  • Not be incarcerated, in an inpatient facility, or in a nursing home
  • Have a household income at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Be ineligible for Veterans Administration (VA) benefits or TennCare (or awaiting a determination about TennCare eligibility)
  • Lack private health insurance with behavioral health benefits or have exhausted all behavioral health benefits in their private insurance plan for the plan year

The income requirement does mean that many working people in Tennessee who lack insurance benefits or mental health coverage may still not qualify. Yet while the income requirement is restrictive, the range of qualifying diagnoses is somewhat broad.  Qualifying diagnoses for Tennessee's Behavioral Health Safety Net program include:

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
  • Borderline and other personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders including dissociative disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and many other mood disorders, including adjustment disorders and unspecified mood disorders

This means you don't necessarily have to have a history of severe mental illness, suicide attempts, psychotic episodes, or hospitalization to qualify for public mental health services in Tennessee. You don't even need to have had a major depressive episode. Many people seeking counseling for anxiety or depression meet clinical criteria for one of the disorders included on Tennessee's list and may qualify for services if they also meet income and other eligibility requirements.


How Can You Find Out More About Local Programs in Tennessee?

There are many ways to learn about state-funded mental health programs in Tennessee. When people call the  statewide crisis line at (855) 274-7471, they are routed to a trained crisis specialist in their area. The crisis line also functions as an information line, and how crisis line staff respond to a caller depends on the caller's circumstances. Crisis line staff can help people who are not at immediate risk of harm find local mental health programs they can call to set up an appointment for outpatient services.

When crisis line callers are at an immediate risk of harm or are in a severe, escalating crisis situation, the crisis line staff may send first responders or members of a mobile crisis team to their location. Depending on the results of the in-person assessment, the person may receive assistance with setting up an outpatient appointment or admission to voluntary or involuntary inpatient treatment. Tennessee offers may levels and types of crisis care in its system, including:

People can also call the crisis line assigned to their county or region. People who are not in crisis but are seeking outpatient mental health services can call the program they're interested in to learn more. People who go to a local outpatient program to apply for the Behavioral Health Safety Net program  are required to receive services at the site where they applied if they are accepted. As the following lists show, many locations in Tennessee are served by multiple publicly-funded outpatient providers, giving consumers in those areas a range of care options.


Tennessee's Mental Health Clinics and Access Numbers

East Tennessee

  • Frontier Health
    • Main Number: (423) 467-3600
    • General Information: (855) 336-9327
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington Counties in Tennessee): (877) 928-9062 or (423) 467-3600
    • Crisis Line (Lee County, Virginia): (276) 346-3590
    • Crisis Line (Scott County, Virginia): (276) 225-0976
    • Crisis Line (Wise County, Virginia): (276) 523-8300
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (208 E. Unaka Ave, Johnson City): (877) 928-9062
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations:
      • Behavioral Respite Services (Johnson City): (423) 926-1595
      • Bristol Regional Counseling Center (Bristol): (423) 989-4500
      • Charlotte Taylor Center (Elizabethton): (423) 547-5950
      • Church Street Pavilion (Greenville): (423) 639-3213
      • Crisis Stabilization Unit (Johnson City): (877) 928-9062
      • Erwin Mental Health Center (Erwin): (423) 743-1470
      • Hancock County Mental Health Clinic (Sneedville): (423) 733-2216
      • Hawkins County Mental Health Center (Rogersville): (423) 272-9239
      • Holston Children and Youth Services (Kingsport): (423) 224-1000
      • Holston Counseling Center (Kingsport): (423) 224-1300
      • Johnson County Counseling Center (Mountain City): (423) 727-2100
      • Lee County Behavioral Health Services (Jonesville, VA): (276) 346-3590
      • Nolachuckey-Holston Area Mental Health Center (Greeneville): (423) 639-1104
      • Scott County Behavioral Health Services (Weber City, VA): (276) 225-0976
      • Tennessee Community Support Services (Bristol): (423) 989-4558
      • Watauga Behavioral Health Services (Johnson City): (423) 232-2600
      • Wise County Behavioral Health Services (Big Stone Gap, VA): (276) 523-8300

  • Mental Health Cooperative
    • General Information: (615) 726-3340
    • Intake: (615) 743-1555 or (866) 816-0433
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Davidson County): (615) 726-0125 or (855) 274-7471
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (275 Cumberland Bend, Suite 237, Nashville): (615) 726-0125
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations in East Tennessee:
      • Chattanooga (Serving Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, Meigs, Rhea, and Sequatchie Counties): (423) 697-5950 or (423) 697-5953
      • Cleveland (Serving Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, and Polk Counties): (423) 728-6400 or (423) 728-6021

  • Peninsula
    • Appointment and Crisis Line: (865) 970-9800
    • Inpatient and Outpatient Mental Health Locations:
      • Peninsula Hospital (Louisville): (865) 970-9800
      • Blount Outpatient Center (Maryville): (865) 970-9800
      • Knox Outpatient Center (Knoxville): (865) 970-9800
      • Loudon Outpatient Center (Lenoir City): (865) 970-9800
      • Sevier Outpatient Center (Sevierville): (865) 970-9800

Middle Tennessee

  • Mental Health Cooperative
    • General Information: (615) 726-3340
    • Intake: (615) 743-1555 or (866) 816-0433
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Davidson County): (615) 726-0125 or (855) 274-7471
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (275 Cumberland Bend, Suite 237, Nashville): (615) 726-0125
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations in Middle Tennessee:
      • Nashville Metro Center (Serving Davidson, Cheatham, and Williamson Counties): (615) 726-3340 or (615) 743-1687 (Integrated Health Clinic)
      • Antioch (Serving Davidson, Rutherford, and Williamson Counties): (615) 365-3160
      • Clarksville (Serving Montgomery and Stewart Counties): (931) 645-5440 or (866) 716-0047
      • Columbia (Serving Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Marshall, Maury, and Williamson Counties): (931) 380-3449 or (866) 790-8848 
      • Cookeville (Serving Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren, and White Counties): (931) 646-5600
      • Dickson (Serving Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, and Parry Counties): (615) 446-3061 or (888) 844-2005
      • Gallatin (Serving Macon, Robertson, Sumner, Trousdale, and Wilson Counties): (615) 230-9663 or (888) 882-8696
      • Murfreesboro (Serving Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, Rutherford, Warren, and Wilson Counties): (615) 904-6490 or (877) 405-0551

West Tennessee

  • Alliance Healthcare Services
    • Main Line: (901) 369-1400
    • Access Line: (901) 369-1410
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Shelby County): (901) 577-9400
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (951 Court Avenue, Memphis): (901) 577-9400
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations(All in Memphis):
      • Court Avenue: (901) 259-8913
      • Douglass Avenue: (901) 369-1480
      • Summer Avenue: (901) 452-6941
      • Whitney Avenue: (901) 353-5440
      • Winchester Road: (901) 369-1400
      • Peabody Avenue: (901) 707-6861

  • Carey Counseling Center
    • Access Line: (800) 611-7757
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Benton, Carroll, Gibson, and Henry Counties): (800) 353-9918
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations:
      • Camden: (731) 584-6999
      • Huntingdon: (731) 986-4411
      • Martin: (731) 480-0011
      • McKenzie: (731) 352-3050
      • Paris: (731) 642-0521
      • Trenton: (731) 855-2871
      • Union City: (731) 885-8810

  • Cherokee Health Systems
    • Appointments: (866) 231-4477
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson and Union Counties): (800) 826-6881 or (423) 586-5074
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (815 West Fifth North Street, Morristown): (423) 586-5074 or (855) 602-1082
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations in West Tennessee:
      • Frayser (Shelby County): (901) 302-4361

  • Pathways Behavioral Health Services
    • Appointments: (800) 587-3854
    • Information: (731) 541-5000 or (731) 541-8200
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Serving Crockett, Dyer, Haywood, Henderson, Lake, Madison, Obion, and Weakley Counties): (800) 372-0693
    • Crisis Walk-In Center (238 Summar Drive, Jackson): (731) 541-8258
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations:
      • Dyer County Office (Dyersburg): (731) 285-1393
      • Gibson County Office (Milan): (731) 723-1327
      • Haywood County Office (Brownsville): (731) 772-4685
      • Henderson County Office (Lexington): (731) 968-8197
      • Summar Drive Office (Jackson): (731) 541-8200
      • Obion County Office (Union City): (731) 885-9333

  • Professional Care Services
    • Appointments: (844) 727-2778
    • Crisis Line (Fayette, Lauderdale, and Tipton Counties): (800) 353-9918
    • Crisis Line (Dyer and Haywood Counties): (800) 372-0693
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations:
      • Brownsville: (731) 772-9002
      • Covington: (901) 476-8967
      • Dyersburg: (731) 287-1794
      • Millington: (901) 873-0305
      • Ripley: (731) 635-3968
      • Somerville: (901) 465-9831

  • Quinco Community Mental Health Center
    • General Information: (731) 658-6113
    • Access Line: (800) 532-6339
    • Crisis Line (With a Mobile Crisis Team Serving Serving Chester, Decatur, Hardin, Hardeman, and McNairy Counties): (800) 467-2515
    • Outpatient Mental Health Office Locations:
      • Chester County Center (Henderson): (731) 989-3401
      • Decatur County Center (Decaturville): (731) 852-3112
      • Hardeman County Center (Bolivar): (731) 658-6113
      • Hardin County Center (Savannah): (731) 925-1022
      • Henderson County Center (Lexington): (731) 967-8803
      • Madison County Center (Jackson): (731) 664-2111
      • McNairy County Center (Selmer): (731) 645-5753

Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another option for public mental health care in Tennessee. These federally-funded programs provide medical and mental health services to people in underserved communities. Their goal is to deliver high-quality coordinated care to people with complex needs and to link behavioral healthcare with primary medical care. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers sliding scale fees to people without insurance. You can search for FQHCs using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. 


How Does Tennessee's Public Mental Health System Work?

In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about how to treat mental health conditions. New laws required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. Many states' public mental health programs trace their origins back to this period.

Tennessee was a little ahead of the curve. In 1953, ten years before the federal Community Mental Health Act was passed by the Kennedy administration, Tennessee established its state Department of Mental Health and made it state policy to provide matching funds to communities that invested in local mental health programs. The state's plan for a comprehensive community mental health system was approved by the federal government in 1966. 

Since 1971, the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (TAMHO) has advocated for mental health consumers and programs in Tennessee. In the 1980s, TAMHO took actions that protected the state's mental health system after the Reagan administration changed how funds were allocated for mental health services. The organization continued to advocate for consumers and communities as the state updated its Medicaid system and launched TennCare in 1994. 

This advocacy helped prevent Tennessee's public mental health system from suffering some of the same setbacks as systems in other states and has helped Tennessee's system succeed where others have not. The state's pioneering integrated care and housing programs  have reduced homelessness, psychiatric hospitalization rates, and wait times for inpatient beds, and a range of outpatient services are available in urban and rural locations across the state.

Since 1953, Tennessee has had a strong centralized state mental health department., though the agency's role has shifted over time. Today, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) oversees four state psychiatric hospitals and a network of private programs that provide outpatient services in three designated state regions.

Unlike many other states, Tennessee does not have county or regional offices that oversee local programs. Instead, TDMHSAS manages and oversees a network of 15 private organizations that provide essential mental health services across the state. Of these, 12 organizations operate mobile crisis teams that respond to calls that come in on the statewide mental health crisis line. People can also go to a crisis walk-in center for an in-person assessment.

Many states make it difficult to understand which public mental health services are available to people who do not have Medicaid. Tennessee is unique in that it explicitly provides help for the uninsured through its  Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which serves "people who are uninsured, underinsured, or have no means to pay." This includes people with private insurance plans whose "behavioral health benefits have been exhausted for the year," though income restrictions also apply.

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