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Groundbreaking makes new behavioral health hospital in Knoxville a reality; milestone celebrated virtually

September 2, 2020

Covenant Health and Acadia Healthcare held a “virtual groundbreaking” on Sept. 2 announcing the start of construction for East Tennessee Behavioral Health, a new psychiatric inpatient hospital in West Knoxville. The virtual webinar was attended by more than 100 community leaders and elected officials.

Speakers for the event included Covenant Health and Acadia executives, Congressman Tim Burchett, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

Covenant Health CEO Jim VanderSteeg told webinar attendees the new facility will help address the growing unmet need for accessible, high-quality behavioral health services in Knoxville and surrounding counties.

“Research tells us that mental disorders and challenges such as substance abuse, anxiety and depression can have significant effects on a person’s overall health – and helping people achieve optimal health is an essential part of our health system’s mission,” VanderSteeg said.

Covenant Health and Acadia Healthcare held a “virtual groundbreaking” Sept. 2 with more than 100 community leaders to mark the construction of East Tennessee Behavioral Health, a 90-bed psychiatric inpatient hospital in West Knoxville.

VanderSteeg says the $33.3 million project will continue the legacy of Peninsula, the behavioral services division of Parkwest Medical Center.

East Tennessee Behavioral Health is being built at the corner of Old Weisgarber Road and Dowell Springs Boulevard. The inpatient hospital will include 90 beds, with potential future growth of 40 additional beds. The facility also will have space for therapeutic recreational activities, including a full gymnasium, exercise and yoga space, and areas for art and music therapy.

“This project has moved swiftly,” said Neil Heatherly, chief administrative officer of Parkwest Medical Center and Peninsula. “With an estimated construction duration of 16 months or so, it’s expected to be open and caring for patients as soon as the fourth quarter of 2021.”

Acadia Healthcare Operations Group President Dr. Jeffrey Woods said the hospital will offer a full continuum of care with inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services. Treatment programs will serve adults and adolescents who struggle with acute symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders.

“We want to see every individual not only meet their potential, but exceed beyond what they believe they are capable of,” Dr. Woods said. “Each person who enters East Tennessee Behavioral Health will be treated with dignity and respect. Our environment will be one that is welcoming and provides a refuge.”

John Hollinsworth, Acadia Healthcare executive vice president of operations, said the timing of the project is important. He explained that the current pandemic has forced many people into social isolation, which has been especially difficult for those who struggle with mental illness.

“We believe this crisis will have long lasting and long-ranging consequences for many individuals,” Hollinsworth said. “This virtual groundbreaking is much more than a symbolic gesture. It is a commitment to be a part of the solution, offering mental health treatment options and replacing stigma with hope.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs thanked Covenant Health and Acadia Healthcare their collaboration in the joint venture, noting that the new hospital will enhance the services offered by Peninsula and expand accessibility of care. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said the project “meets a need that has long been recognized by healthcare providers, elected officials and the community,” and will help many people, including those who currently must drive an hour or more to access mental health services.

Congressman Tim Burchett said, “Mental health issues touch nearly everyone, either through personal experience or knowing someone who is struggling.” He added that effective community resources are essential to helping people receive the treatment they need.

For more information and project updates, visit

About Acadia Healthcare
Acadia Healthcare, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, is a leading provider of behavioral healthcare services. At March 31, 2020, Acadia operated a network of 588 behavioral healthcare facilities with approximately 18,200 beds in 40 states, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. Acadia provides behavioral health and addiction treatment services to patients in a variety of settings, including psychiatric hospitals, specialty treatment facilities, residential treatment centers and outpatient clinics. For additional information about Acadia Healthcare, visit or call 615-861-6000.

About Covenant Health
Covenant Health is a community-owned health system providing comprehensive services in Tennessee. The health system includes 10 hospitals; outpatient services and clinics; specialized behavioral, oncology and rehabilitation services; home care; physician practices and community programs. With more than 10,000 employees, affiliated physicians and volunteers, Covenant Health is the Knoxville area’s largest employer and has been named a Best Employer six times by Forbes. Learn more at