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Posted to Community Services News on February 28, 2020 at 12:17 PM by Janet Lo
Office of Justice Initiatives, Behavioral Health Unit
Mental Health Challenges in the Criminal Justice System: The Need for Shelby County’s Behavioral Health Unit
According to a Mental Health America 2015 report, 1.2 million people with mental illnesses sit in jail and prison every year. That is more than half of all Americans in jail or prison.
Let that sink in. Half of all Americans in prison have a mental illness.
Tennessee unfortunately ranks within the top ten states with the least access to mental health care. Shelby County took action in January 2016 to ensure that defendants in the criminal justice system, that have been identified as having a mental illness, have options for care and treatment that will ultimately reduce their risk of future incarceration.
Qualifying defendants suffering from mental illness can go on probation, in lieu of incarceration, and have the option to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a year-long mental health treatment plan determined by Shelby County’s Mental Health Court.
Defendants must plead guilty to stay in the yearlong program, but once they complete it, their arrest records are expunged. The program includes mental and physical health care, help with alcohol and drug abuse, housing assistance and, if they are capable, employment assistance.
The need is great in Shelby County. The court's clients, most commonly charged with theft, have been arrested an average of 136 times, with records that go back 20 to 25 years, mostly based on "nuisance crimes" — shoplifting, public drunkenness, and crimes associated with drug use. The court calls them "frequent fliers," meaning they're in and out of jail 8 to 10 times per year.
Shelby County's mental health court is presided over by Judge Gerald Skahan. Its performance and the critical needs among an estimated 500 people in jail with a diagnosed mental illness persuaded officials to double the court’s current case load to 50 offenders since it began in 2016.
If you know someone that is currently in jail awaiting trial, on probation, or in prison that has a mental health condition and needs help with seeking treatment or medication, please contact the Behavioral Health Unit team at 901-222-2043.
Tag(s): Trauma Informed, Justice, February 2020, Behavioral Health
Posted to Community Services News on October 29, 2019 at 11:10 AM by Janet Lo
On Thursday, October 17, 2019, the Behavioral Health Unit and Pretrial Services volunteered to serve hundreds of individuals in the community who were homeless at Project Homeless Connect. Project Homeless Connect is an annual event held at The Pipkin Building at Tiger Lane and hosted by the Community Alliance for the Homeless. This was a collaboration with service providers and volunteers from various agencies in Shelby County who came together to assist with improving the lives of those who are homeless.
All in attendance were able to access assistance with medical, dental, social security benefits, housing, legal services and other community resources. “It was rewarding to impact the lives of those in attendance so they could benefit from the resources provided by the community connection." -- Tiffany Hilson, Deputy Administrator of the Behavioral Health Unit.
Tag(s): pretrial, October 2019, Justice, Behavioral Health