Shelby County commissioners will vote on a new facility focused on the mental health of offenders

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

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

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

Frankie Dakin, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Lee Harris, 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 is the norm and everyone agrees it shouldn’t be,” said Frankie Dakin, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Lee Harris. “What we need to do is do a better job of connecting residents to the health care they need and focus on reducing crime in smart ways,” Dakin said.

The $2.5 million resolution to support design and construction was sponsored by Commissioner Erica Sugarmon.

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

The facility appears to be modeled after the Davidson County Behavioral Care Center in Nashville.

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

Commissioners Brittney Thornton, Sugarmon and others toured this facility about a month ago.

“We’re talking about saving taxpayer dollars,” Shelby County Commissioner Brittney Thornton said. “When we talk about that, then it’s really going to free up a burden somewhere else that we can strategically look elsewhere with the excess funds that we’re going to have to be able to just do this more efficiently.”

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

“Not only will they receive comprehensive services, but they will continue services when they enter the general population,” Commissioner Sugarmon said.

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

At the center, the 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 will have daily check-ups, therapy sessions and much more.

Once they leave, they will be given more than a month’s worth of medication, an accommodation and follow-up plan, along with insurance support.

Commissioner Thornton hopes that the joint effort will have a significant impact.

“I’m more encouraged than I’ve ever been in the 14 months since I’ve been in my first elected office, and I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” said Commissioner Thornton.

In addition to local support, Daykin says Sheriff Floyd Bonner brought this idea to county hall over a year ago and has state and federal support from some of our legislators.

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

The public will also be able to see a full presentation of this plan at this meeting.

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