Judge Sell Says Mental Health Court Is In The Works

Friday, June 27, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

General Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell announced to the Chattanooga Civitan Club Friday afternoon that a mental health court was in the works for Hamilton County.

She said, "I'm very excited about this mental health court. I think it's going to be one of the biggest improvements on the court system." 

She told the club that currently, many people with mental health problems are constantly in a cycle of arrest and release for charges such as public intoxication and criminal trespassing.

She said a mental health court would provide them access to resources that would hopefully help break this cycle.

Also, she said, many of these people cannot afford to pay to bond out of jail. A program like a mental health court would allow them to see a judge sooner. 

Judge Sell said that Nashville was one of the first cities in the entire country to create a mental health court and that it has drastically cut costs on the county and city.

Another program Judge Sell helped create was the Domestic Violence Court. Currently in place, victims of domestic violence now have access to an advocate at the courthouse. They also can stay in a separate room where they do not have to face the defendant until the judge is ready to hear the case. 

Hamilton County received grant money to create the Domestic Violence Court as well as to start a Family Justice Center. The center would give domestic violence victims and their families a place to go where they could have access to any kind of help they needed, from mental to legal.

She said centers like these are "usually just in the largest metropolitan areas. Well that's not the only place where these problems are occurring." 

In fact, Judge Sell said Hamilton County was "number three on domestic violence homicides."

She told the club, "I think it's important for you to know that we're not just taking cases...It's getting out in the community, looking at what other communities are doing."

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