Sponsor of new Tennessee law hopes to 'decriminalize mental health' crises
A new law in Tennessee will allow mental health patients experiencing a crisis to be transported by someone other than a law enforcement officer.
Under the current law, police are required to take people suffering from a mental health crisis when they respond to a call.
State Rep. Mike Carter sponsored the House version of the bill.
Tennessee will be the first state in the country to offer a statewide transportation grant to agencies, according to Carter.
It's a bill he says will not only decriminalize mental health but give financial relief to agencies across the state.
Deputy Chief of Corrections Joe Fowler with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says the last place a patient experiencing a crisis should be is in the back of a patrol car.
"We've taken somebody in that mental crisis and we've actually probably made their situation worse instead of treating them like a patient, we're treating them like a criminal," Fowler said.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office transport 610 patients to treatment facilities in 2018.
The total cost was $66,000.
"Our officers are trained to deal with criminals," Carter said. "They do have some training in mental health but that is a shift of responsibility that's inappropriate. We need mental health technicians dealing with mental health issues."
Carter said the state will also give grants to every agency in the state.
It will cost $4-million the first year.
"They will be forced to prepare a budget with proof of how much they have done in the past for their first grant," Carter said.
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