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.”

 


Highway Safety Office To Announce Traffic Safety Initiative For Thanksgiving Holiday

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) will join the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and leaders from organizations that serve local law enforcement officers to announce a statewide traffic safety initiative during the Thanksgiving holiday on Monday morning.  The announcement will be made in the gym of the THP ... (click for more)

Santa Is Available For Pictures At Bradley Square Mall

Santa has arrived at Bradley Square Mall and is available for pictures daily through Christmas Eve.  Hours are Monday – Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 1-6 p.m. There will be extended hours Dec. 16-24. (click for more)

Bradley County Police Investigating Shooting

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting that occurred in the area of Georgetown Road.  A BCSO officer was waved down at the intersection of 25 th Street and Peerless Road by the driver of a vehicle who told the officer a gunshot victim was inside. The officer followed the car to SkyRidge Medical Center. Several people soon arrived at the ... (click for more)

Police Investigating An Armed Robbery On Friday Night At UTC

UTC Police are investigating with the Chattanooga City Police an armed robbery in Lot 4 near Boling Apartments on Friday night. The suspects are described as two black men.  One was six feet tall, wearing a navy jacket, with medium skin tone and short hair.  The other suspect was reported to be 5’ 7”, wearing blue jeans and a long white T-shirt. The second suspect ... (click for more)

Don't Allow Us To Be Overrun By People Who Do Not Belong Here - And Response (6)

Thank you, Senator Corker, for your clear, concise evaluation of the president's attempt to bypass Congress and personally and independently establish national policy that violates our current immigration laws.   Our long-standing failure to enforce our laws to control illegal immigration across our southern border has made this country less safe and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Tubman Goat-Roping

Every spring there comes a bright day on the ranch when the straw-boss decrees a goat-roping should take place. What really happens is the veteran cowboys arm the greenhorns with some lariats late in the afternoon and take them to the pen that holds some Billy goats. This is before they get into bigger beasts -- horses and cattle – yet what appears to be easy most certainly is not. ... (click for more)