Public Forum Set On Setting Up Mental Health Court

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The public is invited to attend a public forum on Criminal Justice and Mental Health: “A Mental Health Court for Hamilton County”, to be held next Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available on the streets or behind the Center. Community participation is encouraged and time will be allotted for audience questions and comments.

The Public Forum is sponsored by the Planning Committee of the City/County Mental Health Court Feasibility Study. The committee is exploring the development of a Mental Health Court for Hamilton County. It is a wide collaborative community effort with 36 individuals from the criminal justice system, government, mental health system and non-profits sitting on the Planning Committee. The initiative is being spearheaded by the office of Public Defender Ardena Garth with strong judicial support from General Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell and Criminal Court Judges Don W. Poole and Barry Steelman.

Officials in the public defender's office said, "Mental health courts are being developed throughout Tennessee and the nation in response to the high proportion of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Here in Hamilton County over a third of all inmates are receiving psychotropic medication. With the decrease in psychiatric beds since the 1960s, there are now three times more seriously mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than hospitals. Statistics show defendants who are mental health consumers stay in custody up to 8 times longer than non-consumers."

Assistant Public Defender Anna Protano-Biggs, who has been leading the Planning Committee, said, “When a person has been arrested 15 times, most people probably assume that person is a hardened criminal. This isn’t necessarily so. Mental health courts help the most vulnerable citizens of our community, many of whom have cycled in and out of the justice system, homelessness, emergency rooms, and mental health and substance treatment systems without ever getting the sustained treatment and support they need for recovery. This compassionate approach both helps individuals and families, and saves resources with fewer arrests and less incarceration time. It makes fiscal sense for taxpayers.”

She said a mental health court in Hamilton County would focus on those defendants with serious mental illness that may have played a role in the alleged commission of the crime. There would be a strong emphasis on judicial supervision combined with individualized plans of intensive social and treatment services to help defendants who would otherwise be released into the community without additional support. It would be a voluntary program.

Judge Christie Sell said, “A mental health court in Hamilton County will significantly reduce costs and improve public safety by connecting mentally ill defendants with community resources. The goal is to reduce the likelihood of continued crime by stabilizing these individuals, who cost more than 7 times more to jail and who are subject to worsening mental conditions when incarcerated. It's a win/win for our community and we are very excited about everyone's commitment to this advancement for Hamilton County.”

The Public Forum will be the first of several forums designed to hear personal stories and ideas from the community about the need for a mental health court. The hope is that mental health consumers, those affected by mental illness, service providers and the wider community will attend the Public Forum. There will be a short presentation followed by a question and answer session. Panel speakers will include Judge Sell, Judge Poole, Anna Protano-Biggs, G.A. Bennett from the Sheriff’s office and Donna Maddox from Johnson Mental Health. The moderators will be Boyd Patterson from the District Attorney’s office and Samantha Bayles from the Public Defender’s office. 

Public Defender Ardena Garth stated, “We are very happy to have so many partners committed to this initiative and to building strong community collaborations. The best mental health court will be one that is specific to Hamilton County and addresses local community needs. We encourage everyone to come to the Public Forum and get involved.”

 



West Village To Host Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Festival

Families are invited to a New Year’s Eve festival in Chattanooga’s newly-revitalized West Village area between MLK and 7th on Chestnut and Pine near the base of the just-opened Westin Hotel. Lights are twinkling and the spirit of the street is changing as the West Village brings a European-style experience to Chattanooga families, said officials. Beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday, ... (click for more)

McKamey Animal Center To Hold 12-Hour Adoption Event On Friday

Home for the Holidays or Bust! That is the mantra of the staff and volunteers of local animal shelter McKamey Animal Center in Chattanooga. Volunteers and staff members are gearing up to help as many animals as possible find a home for the holidays. Shelter staff and volunteers will be staying for a "Holiday All-Nighter" at the shelter on  Friday, from noon until midnight ... (click for more)

Sheriff's Office Investigating Shooting On Ridgestone Drive At Ooltewah

Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the  7200 block of Ridgestone Drive in Ooltewah early Saturday on a call  of a person who had been shot.   The incident happened around 3 a.m.   T he injured person was transported to an area hospital with a non-life threatening injury.  The facts surrounding the shooting ... (click for more)

Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news.  Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like ... (click for more)

The Growing Monopoly

Over the last decade, five tech giants have risen to the top, and created, discovered and invented services and products that have made these companies worth billions today. Those five, of course, are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Each of these companies are responsible for several products and services that we use in our everyday lives. They have devoured the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

This week, as two men greeted one another at the steps leading to a holiday party, one said, “My wife is angel,” this in keeping with the season. The other replied, “You’re lucky … mine is still alive.” Once inside, the two walked into this conversation – “We had a power outage at our house this morning. So, my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad and new surround sound music system were ... (click for more)