Shelby County to open specialized Mental Health Court

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Soon, Shelby County will have a separate court for offenders suffering from mental health issues.

The Mental Health Court is scheduled to open in January.

Thursday, local leaders met to discuss how it will work and the impact it will have on our area.

"Our jail today is the largest mental health facility in Shelby County," Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said at the meeting.

That was a fact he and other area leaders have been working to change.

The goal of Mental Health Court will be to help nonviolent offenders with mental issues get help instead of jail time by mandating treatment or counseling.

"When we have mental health consumers who we have no resources, but 201 Poplar for, we're failing as a community," District Attorney General Amy Weirich said.

The court is being funded through federal grants.

WREG was told Judge Gerald Skahan will be in charge of Mental Health Court.

When we talked with him on Thursday, he said this will not only help those with mental health problems, but will also save the county money.

"One percent of the jail's population accounts for, on average, 13 percent of the resources, and that one percent is people dealing with persistent mental health issues," he pointed out.

Certain specialized courts in Shelby County already help people dealing with drug addiction and other issues.

"We have drug court that's been immensely successful. Veterans court is now about three years into it's life span,"Mayor Luttrell said.

Weirich said this will be one more resource the county can use to help people and hopefully, decrease the number of criminals who re offend.

"If we can bring more resources to the table and make sure that these individuals who need this help get linked with those services, then that's a better day for those individuals, and that just might keep them from victimizing you and your neighbors," she pointed out.

Mental Health Court will be located at 201 Poplar in General Sessions, Division 9.

The plan is to have the first case heard on January 4.