Shelby County expands access to mental health resources through Mental Health Court – FOX13 News Memphis

SHELBY COUNTY, Tennessee – As Memphis and Shelby County are poised to beat last year’s record number of homicides, the Shelby County Mental Health Court is expanding access to health care mental health and improves public safety.

According to a statement from Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, the court is doubling its capacity and using federal funds for the expansion.

On Monday, Mayor Jim Strickland called on the county and state to do more to help reduce crime in the city.


More than two-thirds of inmates in local jails have or have had a mental health problem, compared to 20% of the general population, according to data from the US Department of Justice.

The World Health Organization has recognized this problem and recommends that people with mental illness be diverted from the criminal justice system to the mental health system.

Mayor Harris said repeat offenders commit the majority of crimes. So to stop the revolving doors at 201 Poplar, he’s expanding the county mental health court.

“The concern is that we will see people with mental illness repeatedly retraining through the system over and over again,” Harris said.

Harris said investing in mental health resources can help reduce crime in the community.

“Mental health court participants are less likely to re-offend than those who go through the traditional criminal justice system. The Mental Health Court is changing lives and we are excited to expand its capacity to serve,” said Harris.

The goal is to connect the accused to appropriate mental health support instead of incarcerating them.

“We hope that by doubling the capacity of the mental health court, doubling the number of times it meets, adding additional social workers, ensuring there is a fund to support people in the mental health court, we will be able to keep people out of this repeating cycle,” Harris said.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich said, “The Mental Health Court allows us to properly serve nonviolent offenders who suffer from serious mental illness with the appropriate resources. For many offenders, this intervention prevents future criminal behavior and sets them on the path to becoming productive citizens. »

The Shelby County Mental Health Court was established in 2016. It provides health care, counseling, housing assistance, and employment assistance as an alternative to incarceration.

“Much of the crime is committed by repeat offenders. When you look at repeat offenders, a good portion of them have substance abuse issues or mental illness,” Harris said.

Defendants who suffer from a serious mental illness and who have been charged with a non-violent crime can be tried by the Mental Health Court.

“If you are a defendant, you should talk to your lawyer first about how to make sure your case is in the right frame so you can get the services you need and get back on track,” said said Harris.

On Monday, FOX13 reached out to Mayor Harris’ office about Mayor Strickland, saying the county needs to do more to provide programs for children released from the juvenile detention center.

Harris said they have expanded alternatives to detention and there are youth counselors in some neighborhoods. They also plan to dedicate more resources to juvenile programs.

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