The Best Location For Moccasin Bend Hospital

  • Monday, April 22, 2024

The best location for rebuilding the Moccasin Bend Hospital has become hotly debated.

Serving on the hospital board intermittently since the mid-1990’s and as chairman 2021-2023, possessing no professional healthcare training, having the highest admiration for the Department of Mental Health and the hospital staff; and respecting the efforts of our local legislative delegation, I believe the present Bend location is too isolated to create the best care for patients.

Two logistical problems occur with the hospital at Moccasin Bend. First, families unable to afford personal vehicles must hire taxi or Uber to visit loved ones. Second, emergency vehicles are restricted to a single road in and out of the peninsula, creating a potentially unsafe situation.

The main reason to move the hospital off Moccasin Bend involves changes in healthcare. When Dr. Joe Johnson in 1961 secured a state facility on the Bend, the trend in psychiatric care had been to house the mentally ill in remote bucolic locations for the therapeutic value — and shield patients from the general public. Since then, new medicines and modes of treatment have become available. Today’s well-established approach is to offer mental healthcare in an urban setting, where the infrastructure and resources of the medical establishment can be holistically offered. Moreover, downtown-housed patients find it easier to rejoin the community in any recovery.

One special reason for treating patients in a downtown location relates to the fact that many state hospital admittances come through the emergency room at Erlanger hospital. Once admitted, individuals are normally held about two days in Erlanger’s restricted space before taking the 20 minute ride in a patrol car to Moccasin Bend. If the state invests its $276 million in a modern facility, preferably in Chattanooga’s medical corridor, mental health consumers can be processed efficiently and exposed promptly to a broad set of medical services.

Now is the time to invest the state’s funds (secured by our local legislative delegation) in a modern facility at a well-connected location. And there is a bonus: Moving the hospital and the firing range off the Bend opens the door to a great Moccasin Bend National Archaeological District.

Frank (Mickey) Robbins
Past Chairman, Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute, and current board member, National Park Partners

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