The Moccasin Bend “Garden Club”

  • Monday, April 22, 2024

As a native Chattanoogan, I remember my father making comments to my mother about her belonging to the “Moccasin Bend Garden Club ” whenever we were driving to Nashville and rounding the “Bend” where the Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital was located.

My father would chuckle, and I would peer at the Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital out of the car window and wonder if anyone ever tried to escape the facility by swimming across the Tennessee River.

And I can’t help but think that was one of the reasons the original site of the mental hospital was chosen. After all, it was 1960 and we had a very different outlook on mental health. Back then, these poor souls were locked away, over-medicated and forgotten. A peninsula surrounded by the mighty Tennessee River was the perfect location for a mental hospital in the 60’s. Mental health patients were out of sight and out of mind.

It was understandable.

But times have changed, medical treatment for mental health issues have improved and we should not isolate, but assimilate, mental health patients into the health care mainstream. And we can start by choosing a new location for Moccasin Bend Mental Health Hospital.

The Tennessee State Building Commission and Governor Bill Lee has set aside $276 million for a replacement facility. Picking a new location is the chance of a lifetime.

It seems to me that the lot where Engel Stadium sits would be a great option. It is government owned land, and close to Erlanger. The State could build a state of the art facility for mental health patients in a location surrounded by other non-mental health care facilities. By choosing to build a new mental health facility in close proximity to Erlanger, it will help erase the stigma of mental health patients.

In addition, since the opening of the Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital, Moccasin Bend has been designated a National Archaeological District. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It is rich in Native American History. Our history.

By relocating the mental hospital to Engel Stadium allows the National Park Service to work its magic on Moccasin Bend and “preserve, protect and interpret for the benefit of the public the national significant archaeological and historical resources” located on the peninsula. Yet one more reason to get outside and enjoy the beauty and historic relevance of our Scenic City.

Adding Moccasin Bend to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will increase visitors by 25 percent and would generate an additional $20 million annual economic impact for the Chattanooga region.

What a rare opportunity for a win-win. We can assimilate mental health patients with other health care patients while preserving our heritage for future generations.

C Mark Warren

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