NASHVILLE – On June 12, 2014 Jennifer Jones and Stacey Murphy of Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association (TMHCA) presented Governor Bill Haslam with thank you cards signed by over 100 mental health consumers from throughout the state. The cards represented appreciation for the reinstatement of mental health peer support center funding for the coming fiscal year. At the meeting the Governor expressed his gratitude upon receiving the cards and stated that he would read all of them himself since the mental health community cared enough to thank him.
Jennifer Jones, Vice President of Public Policy and Public Relations for TMHCA said, “I am pleased that Governor Haslam understands and cares about the needs of the mental health consumers in the state. I personally want to thank him for the continued funding for peer support centers and encourage Governor Haslam to designate the funding as recurring for future years.”
During the last budget season funding for mental health peer support centers was not included in the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) because of a mandatory 5% cut per department. Grass roots advocacy efforts throughout the state led Governor Haslam to restore peer support center funding.
There are 45 peer support centers throughout the state that impact the lives of approximately 3,000 mental health consumers a month. These centers also serve veterans that have returned from combat. The centers employ about 150 individuals that also experience mental health issues such as bipolar, major depression and PTSD.
Peer support centers were established in 1989 the first being Friend’s Helping Friends in Nashville, TN. Since that time they have grown to be a touchstone in many people’s lives by providing support, education, advocacy and family of choice for the participants in each program. The struggle to keep the peer centers open has been occurring for many years due to the poor economy and annual budget cuts. The mental health community has dedicated its efforts to keep the doors open at each of the 45 centers across the state as they are a vital part of the participants’ wellness and recovery.