State officials are considering using some of Tennessee’s federal COVID-19 relief funds to make improvements to facilities for children and those with intellectual disabilities in the care of the state.
A total of $3.7 billion will come to Tennessee from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year. On Monday, state commissioners presented facility improvement proposals totaling $653 million to the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, appointed last year by Gov. Bill Lee to oversee spending of federal pandemic-related relief funds.
Final decisions on the spending are yet to come. By federal law, the funds must be used to decrease the spread of COVID-19, replace lost revenue, support households and businesses, and address systemic public health and economic challenges. Officials have until December 2024 to spend the money.
The Department of Children’s Services is proposing a $195 million renovation of the John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville. The 144-bed facility is the only hardware secure juvenile justice facility in the state. Currently 68 youths between 16 and 18 are housed there, all certified members of violent street gangs.
Wilder saw 26 security incidents in the last 12 months, including several escapes by youths. Improvements would address the facility’s security issues and allow for a more effective pandemic response.
The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is proposing renovations to three regional office buildings in Nashville, Greeneville and Arlington totaling $181 million.
Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is proposing a $277 million rebuild of Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga to better accommodate patient needs and facilitate pandemic responses. The department has spent $11 million on maintenance for the facility since 2016.