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Need for housing for those battling mental illness continues to grow

Posted at 9:14 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 23:57:33-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Once a mental health patient leaves the hospital many of them find it hard landing back on their feet. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has been providing housing for many of those patients for nearly 20 years.

"I forget if I was high or drunk; I walked into JCPenney in Columbia Tennessee, swung a fire extinguisher, took some bank bags and ran at the police; luckily, they didn't shoot me to death," said Devin Starr.

34-year-old Starr said he found himself in and out of jail.

"Yes, it’s shameful, and it’s not a good route to take by any means but it was the only route I knew," he said.

It was a route that landed him into getting some help.

"The first diagnoses was schizophrenia, the second one was drug substance schizophrenia," said Starr.

He's now being treated for schizophrenia bipolar, but Starr says he wouldn't be where he is today without support.

"Lacy is the prize, I'm telling you she is just gold to me,"

Lacy Hale is a coordinator with the Tennessee Move Initiative (TMI). TMI along with the Department’s Division of Mental Health Services and Division of Hospital Services, provides intensive and customized care coordination services to individuals in long-term units within Tennessee’s state owned regional mental health institutes.

"We're on call 24/7 so if they need us we're there," said Hale.

In 2000, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse launched the Creating Homes Initiative. The program has cashed in more than $611 million through grants to create more than 20,000 new housing opportunities for those battling mental illness across the state.

"As we stepped through the doors here we go into the client living space," said Sean McPherson, President at LifeCare Family Services.

LifeCare's Shelby Manor is expected to be up and running soon.

"We're going to be housing 18 clients, we currently have space for five women and 13 men," said McPherson.

Staff say the need for more housing for those with mental illness continues to grow.

But for now, this home and many others like it will provide support for countless others like Devin.

"Just don't give up, and if you do, get back up don't lay in the slumps forever, I know it sucks excuse my language but get back up," said Starr.

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