Office Of Community Health Launches Mental Health Clinics Focusing On Traditionally-Underserved Populations

  • Tuesday, April 16, 2024

In response to an urgent need for intensive mental health services in Chattanooga, the Office of Community Health announces the creation of several mental health clinics aimed at providing vital care to underserved communities in Chattanooga. 

The services are fully-funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and will be provided at community centers in neighborhoods the Office of Community Health has established as having a disproportionate need.

Chattanooga City Council approved memorandums of understanding to provide mental health care to individuals who are underinsured, uninsured or cannot afford a copay. The services will be provided in collaboration with several of the city’s key community partners who are already providing services in the community. 

"Closing gaps in public health and leading on mental health are priorities of the One Chattanooga plan, and this marks a significant milestone in our work,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “By partnering with local organizations to make mental health services available, we're not just treating symptoms, but healing communities. Everyone benefits when people in need are able to get care.”

The memorandums establish official partnerships with the following local organizations:

AIM Center: Providing mental health services to the unhoused population and allocating Spanish-speaking providers to Eastlake's predominantly Hispanic community on a weekly basis.

First Baptist Cares and Align Wellness: Offering predominantly African American counselors at Carver, Glenwood, South Chattanooga, and the Chris L. Ramsey, Sr. Community Centers, providing culturally competent support for these demographics.

Lifespring: Introducing an African American nurse practitioner and a Spanish-speaking counselor to Opportunity High School students, housed at the Chris Ramsey Center, to address the unique mental health needs of youth.

Mission Medicos: Delivering culturally competent care to the burgeoning Hispanic population, many of whom are uninsured, and integrating mental health services seamlessly with physical health care.

The 2023 public health survey of Hamilton County identified mental health and substance use as top concerns among residents, revealing the need for more accessible mental health care options in Chattanooga. As of 2022, an estimated 9.8 percent of Chattanoogans were medically uninsured, equating to almost 18,000 individuals. Without insurance coverage, mental health treatment becomes unaffordable for most individuals, leading to unmet needs and potential worsening of mental health conditions, said officials. 

“Access to quality mental health care has time and time again proven to be a significant determinant of every other factor to determine one’s quality of life,” said Dr. Geeta Maharaj, interim director of the Office of Community Health. “Closing the gaps between those who can access quality mental health care and those who cannot is how we make even more strides in lowering the big barriers holding people back in underserved communities.”

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