Sheriff Applying For Grant Up To $2.2 Million To Help Divert Those With Mental Issues From Jail

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2019
  • Gail Perry

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and his Chief of Staff Gino Bennett are attempting to improve recidivism, housing and related outcomes for formerly incarcerated people. At the Oct. 2 meeting of the County Commission they will request permission to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for up to $2.2 million to improve the revolving door for people with mental illnesses leaving and returning to the county’s jails and hospitals. As it is now, the county spends $100,000 each day for incarceration.


This is an outcome-based grant. It is hoped that up-front money would come from donations and foundations. The goal is to reduce the number of mentally ill in the jails and hospitals. At the end of the grant period, results would be evaluated and if it comes out the way it is planned, the original investors would be reimbursed. There would be no match required from Hamilton County.


The grant would last for 54 months and there would be no cost to taxpayers. What would happen with the programs when the grant money runs out is unknown. Sheriff Hammond told the commissioners that the grant does not require the county to continue it. He said it could be decided if it is valuable enough at the end of the 54 months, when the results will be known.  


County Mayor Jim Coppinger introduced his new appointment to the position of Director of Financial Management of the county. It is Vonda Patrick. It was noted that appointment does not legally have to be approved by the commission, but County Mayor Coppinger said he asked for approval as a courtesy. He said he believes it is important for people to know who is running their county government in the higher-level positions.


Also, on the agenda for Oct. 2 will be a resolution accepting the bid from Walden Security for the services of security guards. The contract would be for a five-year contract, beginning Nov. 7, 2019 through Nov. 6, 2024, with the option to renew for one additional five-year term.


Five volunteers from the Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services Department who responded to Hurricane Dorian, were recognized and honored by County Mayor Coppinger. Task forces across the state are requested to participate in areas outside of their jurisdictions, which the five did on Aug. 29 when they responded to the call for help in Florida. These were in support positions; they were not taken out of local ambulances. Thirty ambulances from across Tennessee first went to Florida then moved to North Carolina where the storm came ashore and were gone for nine days. The county will be reimbursed by the federal government for any costs incurred. “The willingness of our people to help others is what makes first responders so special,” said the county mayor.


The announcement about Nippon Paint locating in East Chattanooga is great news, commented Commissioner Mackey. He said for the first time in almost 100 years, an industry is moving to that neighborhood creating 150 jobs. And that property has not been on the tax rolls for 70 years, said the county mayor.


County Mayor Coppinger also announced that on Oct. 25 Hamilton County will have its 200th birthday.

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