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TDMHSAS Expands Successful Jail Diversion Program

New round of grants to focus on rural, underserved, and distressed counties
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | 11:54am

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is excited to announce the expansion of a successful program to divert people from jail into mental health treatment services.  Pathways Behavioral Health, Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, and Morgan County Government have been recommended for grants through the Pre-Arrest Diversion Infrastructure – Capital Grants program.

Governor Bill Lee budgeted and the Tennessee General Assembly appropriated $1.5 million in one-time, non-recurring funding for pre-arrest diversion capital grants in the FY20 Budget.  The goal of pre-arrest diversion is to reduce or eliminate the time individuals with mental health, substance use, or co-occurring disorders spend incarcerated by redirecting them from the criminal justice system to community-based treatment and supports.

Applicants were asked to focus on rural, underserved, and distressed areas of the state with emphasis on local community investment to sustain programming after the capital grant.  Selected agencies have designed programs to serve residents of at least eleven rural counties including two distressed counties.

“We’ve seen the amazing effect that our first round of pre-arrest diversion sites have had improving the lives of Tennesseans struggling with mental illness, and we are excited that this set of grants will serve people in rural areas of the state,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.  “Mental illness truly does not discriminate by zip code, and these grants will be an immense benefit to the people who are connected to services and a relief to local law enforcement to help their neighbors in need.”

Grant recommendations were made by TDMHSAS, in consultation with the Department of Finance and Administration, and will be administered by the Department of General Services.  After approval by the State Building Commission, each of the three grantees will receive $500,000 to implement the program they designed for their communities.  Designs include:

  • Pathways Behavioral Health: Crisis services including a walk-in-center and crisis stabilization unit located in Humboldt to connect clients to treatment and services for Gibson, Crockett, Dyer, Obion, Lake, Weakley, Benton, Carroll, and Haywood Counties
  • Volunteer/Hiwassee Mental Health Center: Crisis services will be expanded to include a 24/7 walk-in-center with observation and respite services located in Cleveland to serve Bradley and surrounding counties. An existing crisis stabilization unit in Hamilton County will be available to support the expanded crisis services.
  • Morgan County Government: In partnership with Ridgeview Behavioral Health, facility for co-located community services in Wartburg, Morgan County

“General Services is honored to serve as a partner in providing help to individuals struggling with mental illness through the Capital Grants program,” said Department of General Services Commissioner Christi Branscom. “Through the administering of this funding, TDMHSAS will be able to reach these individuals in rural, underserved, and distressed counties and drastically improve their lives as well as their local communities.”

In the initial round of Pre-Arrest Diversion Infrastructure Program grants, seven grantees received funding to create or expand jail diversion options in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Cookeville, Jackson, and Morristown.  In state fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, pre-arrest diversion sites connected 7,180 people with mental health treatment instead of incarceration at an estimated savings of more than $9.8 million to local partners.  Additionally, more than 4,500 law enforcement officers and nearly 800 behavioral health professionals received training.

To learn more about pre-arrest diversion efforts in Tennessee, visit this link: TN.gov/behavioral-health/prearrest