Westmoreland murder case prompts question of mental health help available in Tennessee

Posted at 4:38 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 21:01:05-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Family members of the suspected Westmoreland murderer say the killings could have been prevented if he'd just had help in battling mental illness. Yet, what some may not know is Tennessee offers free mental health programs for the uninsured.

Michael Cummins is believed to be responsible for killing seven people in a Westmoreland home. Family members say he's been mentally unstable for a long time.

His aunt, Carlotta Clinard, said her sister tried to get him help before she was killed, but they were turned away from the facility because he didn't have insurance.

"It's like living in a movie, this ain't suppose to happen," Clinard said.

Those close to Cummins said he was a "ticking time bomb" who needed help. He was even ordered to get mental health treatment while on probation, which didn't happen according to court documents.

There's actually a free program for the uninsured called the Behavioral Health Safety Net. You can learn more about it here.

Convicted felons, or anyone over the age of 19, can apply to get free mental health treatment. Several providers participate in the safety net program, and anyone accepted into can take part.

Sarah Tanksley is the communications director for the Division of TennCare. She said she's been working to make the insurance application process as easy as possible.

"You can call on the phone, and one of our specialists will help walk you through that application over the phone," Tanksley explained.

That phone number is 1-855-259-0701. You can also sign up online through the TennCare Connect website.

"We encourage anyone to apply," Tanksley added.

Long-term medical care and insurance coverage can save lives. It might even prevent horrific tragedies from happening in some cases.