Shelby County Sheriffs Announce New Mental Health Practices

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The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office announced an effort Monday that would allow sheriff’s deputies to work proactively with mental health professionals.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – On Monday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. announce a new effort that will place trained mental health professionals in the field with Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies.

The Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said this will allow embedded clinical professionals to work alongside the Sheriff’s Crisis Response Team to provide mental health treatment to those in crisis, rather than sending them to prison.

According to the US Department of Justice, one in five Americans is affected by mental illness each year, and distress calls involving mental illness require 87% more time and resources for the responding agency.

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SCSO said that in addition to co-responding with CIT-trained assistants, mental health professionals will work proactively with community health and service providers to connect residents to services that address their mental illness and reduce the likelihood that they will have to call again in case of distress.

“The pandemic has made it even clearer that our community needs to focus on mental health,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “This effort to integrate mental health professionals with our first responders will help divert people in crisis to the help they need. and reduce their reliance on 9-1-1 distress calls. I commend Sheriff Bonner and his team for their continued commitment to meeting the persistent challenge of responding to mental health crisis calls.

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The effort to integrate mental health professionals with first responders and jointly respond to mental health crises builds on mental health reforms in Shelby County that include direct transportation by first responders to mental health care, certified training of dispatchers who handle mental health, behavioral emergencies, and suicide calls, and a doubling of the capacity of the Shelby County Mental Health Court.

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