Shelby County commissioners to vote on new facility focused on mental health of offenders

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Plans for a multi-million dollar world-class mental health facility are in the works in Shelby County.

Mayor Lee Harris’s office, some county commissioners, the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s office, local judges, and more all support plans to build the Shelby County Mental Health, Safety, and Justice Center.

Shelby County government officials say this will have a positive impact on our community, helping to reduce crime, give support to those who need it, and save taxpayer dollars.

Frankie Dakin, Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Lee Harris’ Office will present plans for the proposed Shelby County Mental Health, Safety and Justice Center to county commissioners next week.

“201 Poplar has been the largest provider of mental health care for decades, so this has been the norm and everyone agrees that it shouldn’t be,” said Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Lee Harris’ Office Frankie Dakin. “What we need to do is a better job of connecting residents to the healthcare that they need and focus on crime reduction in smart ways,” said Dakin.

The $2.5 million resolution supporting design and construction is sponsored by Commissioner Erika Sugarmon.

“This is something we want to facilitate and we want to implement sooner than later,” said Shelby County Commissioner Erika Sugarmon. “The $2.5 million is just the starting point.”

The facility looks to model the Davidson County Behavioral Care Center in Nashville.

Dakin says their recidivism rate is less than half the national average.

Commissioners Britney Thornton, Sugarmon, and others toured that facility about a month ago.

“We’re talking about saving taxpayers dollars,” said Shelby County Commissioner Britney Thornton. “When we’re talking about that then that’s really going to release a burden somewhere else that we can strategically look somewhere else with the excess funds we will have to be able to just do this more efficiently.”

According to the proposal, if an arrestee shows signs of mental illness within 48 hours in custody, is not released on bond or their own recognizance will be referred to the center after review by the sheriff’s office, the DA, and the public defender’s office. They will not be prosecuted if they complete the program.

“Not only would they receive wrap-around services but continued services when they enter the general population,” said Commissioner Sugarmon.

The inpatient mental health facility will be operated by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

At the center, an offender will meet with clinical professionals within 24 hours, make a treatment plan, and meet with a discharge planner in the following days.

During their stay, they’ll have daily check-ins, therapy sessions, and more.

Once they leave, they’ll be given more than a month’s worth of medication, a plan for housing and follow-ups along with support for insurance.

Commissioner Thornton is hopeful the collaborative effort will have a meaningful impact.

“I’m as encouraged as I’ve ever been, in this 14 months of being in my first elected office and I think that we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” said Commissioner Thornton.

Besides support on the local level, Dakin says Sheriff Floyd Bonner brought this idea to the county mayor’s office more than a year ago and has support on the state and federal levels from some of our lawmakers.

Commissioners will vote on whether or not to approve a $2.5 million for design and construction in a resolution on Monday.

The public will get to see a full presentation of this plan at that meeting as well.

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