Helen Ross McNabb Center Timeline


The Child Welfare League of America conducted a survey of children's needs in the Knoxville community.  The League recommended the formation of a child guidance clinic.  Pursuing this recommendation, the Council of Community Agencies appointed a committee, with Helen Ross McNabb as chairman, to study the possibility of opening a child guidance clinic.


Helen Ross McNabb's dreams were realized when the doors of the mental health center opened. Known as the Knoxville Mental Health Clinic, it was the first community mental health clinic established in the state and served citizens from 16 East Tennessee counties.  Headed by Dr. Louise Noel and staffed by three professionals, the clinic was financed with $16,000 in federal public health funds matched by local funds, including $8,000 from the Knoxville City Council and $1,200 from the Junior League.  The Knoxville Bureau of Health was responsible for the financial and administrative operations of the clinic.  A separate advisory board headed by Mrs. McNabb (who was also an experienced social worker), directed the making of the clinic's policies and oversaw program development.


The clinic, an outpatient diagnostic and treatment facility for children, experienced rapid growth and moved to larger quarters in 1949 and again in 1951.


The Tennessee Department of Mental Health (TDMH) was formed in 1953.  The TDMH became responsible for the quality of professional work at the clinic and directed the disbursement of public funds.  The clinic, now independent from the Knoxville Bureau of Health, became the Knoxville Mental Health Center, a private, not-for-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Soon after, the board recognized a need to address broader community mental health issues and agreed to divide.  Half of the board membership remained to govern the Center.  The other half became the nucleus of the board of a new organization, the Knox Area Mental Health Association.


Adults were accepted for treatment and the Knoxville Mental Health Center grew throughout the 1950's, adding professional staff and space as needed to meet the demand for services. The Department of Mental Health, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, the Junior League, and patient fees provided the Center's primary financial support.  


The Center was accepted as a United Fund (United Way) agency.


The Center celebrated 10 years of service to the community.


The Board of Directors decided the Center should become a comprehensive mental health center and applied for funds under the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center Act of 1963.  To qualify for the federal dollars, the Center agreed to provide outpatient services, inpatient care, adult day care, 24-hour emergency service, and a consultation and education program.


The Center celebrated 20 years of service.


Federal funds were approved and a campaign to provide the necessary matching local funds was launched, and a building site on the grounds of the University of Tennessee Medical Center was leased for 50 years.  


The two-story brick building was completed and dedicated as the Helen Ross McNabb Community Mental Health Center. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, the Center provided comprehensive community mental health services.  When necessary, the Center would operate neighborhood satellite clinics to provide onsite services.


The Center celebrated 30 years of service.


The need for expansion again presented itself.  In 1986, a third floor was added to the Center.  This solution provided only temporary relief from crowded conditions.


The Center leased and renovated an older home on the edge of downtown Knoxville for what would become Friendship House


The Center celebrated 40 years of service.


Friendship House, a social/recreational and vocational rehabilitation facility for adults who have mental illness, was opened in the home in 1989.    Also in 1989, the Helen Ross McNabb Children and Youth Center opened, bringing the Center's program for children all under one roof.


An annual fund campaign allowed the Center to purchase and renovate a business facility on Luttrell Avenue.  The vocational rehabilitation services were relocated there and named Friendship House Vocational Connection. 


The Center merged with Detoxification Rehabilitation Institute (DRI).  It opened as a 14-bed, non-medical alcoholic detoxification and rehabilitation program under a grant from the state. Soon, services for other substances abuses were offered there as well. In the 1980's a number of outpatient programs were added, as were prevention, adolescent residential, training and community education, and AIDS outreach programs, expanding the service area to 16 counties.
Two of the D.R.I. facilities were in dire need of improvement. A capital funds campaign raised $3.3 million in Knox and Blount counties to renovate an existing building for the adult program and build a new facility for the adolescent center.


The CenterPointe Adult Addiction Services opened. It now offers residential treatment, intensive outpatient care, day treatment, social detoxification, medically managed detoxification and problem gambling services.

Also in 1998, the Center received a generous gift of 90 acres of property from Robert and Laila Werner of Louisville, Tennessee. The Center also celebrated its 50th year of service. 


A 40-acre portion of the Werner estate became the site of the Gateway Center, a residential substance abuse treatment facility for adolescents that opened in November.


The Knox County Child Net children's counseling program was established. This innovative outpatient program is designed for children ages 2-12 who are experiencing trauma, mental illness and/or behavioral problems.  


The Center's "Friendship Works" campaign raised over $1.1 million to renovate the existing facility for the Friendship House Peer Support Center and to construct a new, adjoining building. The facility now houses psychiatric rehabilitation services in addition to the social/recreational rehabilitation services. 


The new Friendship House opened.
Also in 2002, the McNabb Foundation launched a capital campaign to raise $5,000,000 to create a new state-of-the-art adult services facility and relocate and centralize its administrative services. 


The new adult services center and Center administrative office buildings opened on Springdale Avenue.

Also in 2003, realizing they were not equipped to handle children's services, Knox County signed an agreement with the Center to assume the operation of the John Tarleton children's home campus. The campus houses foster care, adoption, residential, and community-based counseling services specifically for children.


The Center became a provider Safety Net Program. Safety Net was created by the state of Tennessee to provide limited mental health treatment to individuals who were removed from the TennCare rolls.

Also in 2005, Microsoft and Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Inc. teamed up to give the Center over $567,000 in cash, computer hardware and software that is enabling Center staff to do their work more efficiently and more effectively.  

In 2005, a $1.5 million fundraising campaign for the renovation and new construction for the CenterPointe adult addiction services facility was completed and Child Net expanded to Blount County. 


The Center's intranet website was launched. Center-net provides staff access to news and information at the center, in addition to offering on-line training, information on programs and services, center policies and procedures.


The new construction and renovation project at CenterPointe began in the spring and was completed in the fall.   

Also, in 2007, the Center launched a $775,000 campaign to fund the Adult Indigent Care Program (AICP) that will provide mental health services to 200 people a year that have no resources or insurance coverage to pay for care.   The Adult Indigent Care Program is not a replacement for TennCare or an enhancement of mental health services for individuals with mental health coverage.


The Center celertaed 60 years of service to Knoxville and East Tennessee.

Also in 2008, plans are underway to develop the Blount County Community Campus in Maryville that would bring social services for children and adults in one location. The proposal would place the Helen Ross McNabb Center's Blount County services in one location along with New Hope Children's Advocacy Center on county owned land adjacent to the Blount County Children's Home.

The Center also expanded services in Morristown. The Center now provides both children's and adult services at facilities in Morristown.  Through a partnership with the Youth Emergency Shelter (Y.E.S.) of Morristown, the Center will offer outpatient mental health services at the shelter in a newly renovated section of the building.  Children with behavioral problems, mental health conditions, or children who have been traumatized will be able to receive treatment and intervention services from this location.  The McNabb Center has also merged with Morristown's New Hope Recovery Center and will handle the day-to-day operations. New Hope provides substance abuse care.  

In addition, Helen Ross McNabb will provide residential treatment services at the shelter to help youth who are in custodial care of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.  These youth have typically been in the foster care system and are in need of mental health treatment to achieve their goal of permanency in a foster home or reunification with their family.  The Center seeks to provide services to eight children in the residential services and another eight children in community placement.

Also in 2008, the Helen Ross McNabb Foundation launched a new fundraising drive. This effort will provide funds to build 40 rental housing units for the homeless and create a pharmacy at the adult services building here on Springdale.   We are seeking to raise $3.6 million for this campaign.  

Today the Center is a regional provider of mental health, substance abuse, and social services in 17 East Tennessee counties delivering service from 29 distinct locations.