October 5, 2022

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Shelby County Sheriffs announce new mental health practices

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

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — 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 Intervention Team in order to provide mental health treatment to those in a crisis, rather than sending them to jail.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five Americans are affected by mental illness each year, and distress calls that involve 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 deputies, the mental health professionals will work proactively with community health and service providers to connect residents with services that address their mental illness and reduce the likelihood that they must call in distress again. 

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

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The effort to embed mental health professionals with first responders and co-respond to mental health crises builds on mental health reforms in Shelby County that include direct transport by first responders to mental health care, certified training of dispatchers who handle mental health, behavioral emergency, and suicide calls, and a doubling of the capacity of Shelby County’s Mental Health Court.

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