NASHVILLE, TENN. (TN Tribune) – Today, Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced a first-of-its-kind investment of $600,000 in mental health services for the Davidson County court system. Mayor Cooper was joined today by General Sessions Court Judge Melissa Blackburn, District Attorney Glenn Funk, Public Defender Martesha Johnson, and members of the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing, which was formed by Judge Blackburn in September 2022, to make the historic commitment aimed at connecting individuals who commit non-violent, low level offenses with mental health resources.
“Today’s first-of-its-kind investment will be critical in getting people struggling with mental health conditions the services and aid they need, and will allow our law enforcement and criminal justice system to focus on keeping Nashville families safe and reducing crime across the city,” said Mayor Cooper. “Additionally, data analysis from the task forced showed that 30% of the population studied were unhoused, so these new resources will help us connect individuals who are homeless with the help they need to be healthy and stay off the streets. This frees up our court system to be more effective, and tax dollars to be spent more efficiently. I’d like to thank Judge Blackburn for her leadership on this issue, and commend the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing for their hard work and recommendations that led us to today.”
Judge Blackburn also highlighted that this investment will ensure individuals who have mental health conditions and are arrested for non-violent, low level offenses get the critical services they need, with the aim of preventing future arrests on the same grounds.
“We know the difference between a mental health condition and a crime. The Task Force report helps us to move forward in ensuring individuals presenting with mental health conditions are connected to the care that they need, while at the same time we continue to protect public safety,” Blackburn said.
During today’s announcement, the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing released its recommendations and introduced a public health approach to establish access to care and pathways for stability in the community. This effort seeks to reduce and eliminate the rate at which these individuals are reincarcerated. Metro Public Health Department will support the effort through data analysis and reporting.
Mayor Cooper announced that his office was successful in securing specialized support from SAMHSA’s Gains Center to implement the recommendations. Under Mayor Cooper’s leadership, Nashville has also received specialized support from the Gains Center to prepare a blueprint for new response services that do not rely on law enforcement. Services are planned for early 2023.
Members of the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing include:
General Sessions Court, Division 2 Mental Health and Veterans Court
Davidson County District Attorney General
Davidson County Public Defender
Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
Office of Mayor John Cooper
Metro Public Health Department
Metro Nashville Police Department
Mayor’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Advisory Council
Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Mental Health Cooperative, Inc
Vanderbilt University Medical Center – Forensic Evaluation Team
To view the full report, visit Task Force on Competency & Wellbeing: Findings & Recommendations (nashville.gov)