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Mayor David Briley Announces Council to Address Behavioral Health and Wellness

Contact: Judith Byrd 615-862-6461, cell 615-761-6694

Mayor David Briley signed an Executive Order last week establishing a Community Behavioral Health and Wellness Advisory Council — a group of community experts who will advise the Mayor in setting priorities around issues of behavioral health, mental illness and substance abuse.

The purpose of the Council will be to promote broad collaboration between government and community partners to support systems change that will ultimately better serve residents and families in need. Members named to the Council include service providers and public health experts as well as representatives from the justice system, academia, Metro Schools, faith communities and those living with a mental or behavioral health condition.

“The number of families impacted by a mental or behavioral health condition or experiencing substance abuse is staggering, while stigma and a fragmented system of care make it very hard to achieve wellness. The work of this collaborative Council is critical. It will raise awareness to reduce stigma, and it will improve navigation and access to care to reduce suffering,” said Mayor Briley.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental health condition and less than half receive treatment. Severe depression among youth has also significantly increased in recent years and, fueled by the opioid epidemic, substance abuse is rising dramatically. In fact, overdose deaths now exceed deaths from homicide and motor vehicle accidents combined, and overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50.

These national trends are playing out in Nashville with devastating consequences. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Davidson County fatal overdose rates more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 to 227 deaths.

“Only 1 in 10 Nashvillians experiencing addiction get the help they need, and behavioral health issues are a public health crisis in our city. We must address early childhood trauma and develop trauma-informed solutions. I am honored to participate and look forward to working with leaders from across the community to make a positive impact," said Pam Womack, CEO for Mental Health Cooperative.

Leaders in Nashville have prioritized behavioral health and made some important progress toward systems improvement and prevention.  In March, Mayor Briley and community leaders participated in a ground-breaking for the construction of Mental Health Cooperative’s new crisis treatment center — a partnership between Metro, the State and the cooperative to provide a safe place for those in crisis and serve as an important resource for first responders to divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system to the care they need. Metro Nashville Public Schools will also pilot a comprehensive substance abuse prevention and education curriculum in the upcoming school year for middle school students in select schools, with a goal of expanding the program to all middle school students the following year.

“This Advisory Council will elevate the important work being done in our communities and develop further priorities to lessen the impact of mental illness and addiction on the people of Nashville," said Mayor Briley.

Members of the Community Behavioral Health and Wellness Advisory Council:

  • Katina Beard, CEO, Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center
  • Rob Briley, Former Tennessee Legislator and Person in Recovery
  • Schatzie Brunner, Advocate
  • Monty Burks, Director of Special Projects, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • Judge Sheila Calloway, Juvenile Court of Metro Nashville and Davidson County
  • Judge Daniel Eisenstein, Retired Mental Health Court Judge and Advocate
  • Brian Gill, Vice President of Behavioral Health, Saint Thomas Health
  • Daron Hall, Sheriff, Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mary Linden Salter, Executive Director, Tennessee Association of Alcohol and other Addiction Services
  • Tony Majors, Executive Officer of Student Services, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Robin Nobling, Executive Director, NAMI
  • Jameson Norton, CEO, Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Dr. Bill Paul, Director, Metro Public Health Department
  • Dr. William Richie, Psychiatrist, Assistant Professor, Meharry Medical College
  • Pamela Sessions, CEO, Renewal House
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stovall, Psychiatrist, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • Angie Thompson, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness, Metro Public Health Department
  • Bob Vero, CEO,  Centerstone Tennessee
  • Dr. Joseph Webb, CEO, Nashville General Hospital
  • Pam Womack, CEO, Mental Health Cooperative