Gov. Bill Lee prepares to give State of State / Budget Address on Monday

Announces major mental health, suicide prevention and criminal justice initiatives

Governor Bill Lee announced major mental health, suicide prevention and criminal justice initiatives this week as he gets ready to give his first State of State / Budget Address on Capitol Hill Monday night.  The governor is also preparing regional State of the State addresses in Knoxville on Tuesday and in Memphis on Thursday. 

On mental health, Gov. Lee is proposing an additional $11.2 million to expand access to services for Tennesseans living with serious mental illness to cover an additional 7,000 uninsured Tennessee adults through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program.  It also addresses increasing costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes and ensures that those facilities will continue to provide high quality care to Tennesseans with the most significant psychiatric needs.

In addition, Gov. Lee is proposing a $3 million investment to the Creating Homes Initiative, a program which has created more than 20,000 quality, permanent housing opportunities for those living with mental illness. This new investment will expand recovery housing options for Tennesseans struggling with substance abuse.

To address the state’s high rate of suicide, Governor Lee has called for a $1.1 million investment that will expand the state’s partnership with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) to establish a new regional outreach model.  It will also increase the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ efforts to focus on interventions at the community level using evidence-based practices.  Tennessee’s suicide rate is 20 percent higher than the national average. 

The Governor’s criminal justice and public safety initiative will supplement mental health efforts by expanding the recovery court system and programming.  His budget will ask for $1.7 million in additional funding to expand the Recovery Courts capacity by 20 percent to serve an additional 500 Tennesseans each year. 

He also called for eliminating the $180 state expungement fee associated with clearing records of certain criminal charges and expanding higher education programming to help inmates secure employment instead of re-entering the prison system.  Over 30 percent of inmates in Tennessee prisons do not have a high school equivalency.  “By offering quality education programming, inmates have a 43 percent lower chance of re-entering prison than those who do not receive this education,” Lee said.

Once the Governor’s budget is delivered to lawmakers, a thorough examination will be conducted in the Senate’s nine standing committees.  Fifty-nine hearings of all departments and agencies of state government have been scheduled beginning March 12.  The hearings are expected to wind up in early April.

Tennessee’s budget totals $37.7 billion in the current 2018-2019 fiscal year ending on June 30.  Governor Lee’s State of the State / Budget Address will be streamlined on the General Assembly’s website at: at 6:00 p.m. on Monday.  Details for the State of East Tennessee address and the State of West Tennessee address can be found at

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