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Division of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Services

Criminal Justice and Mental Health in Tennessee
Criminal Justice and Mental Health Projects

Criminal Justice/Mental Health Advisory Committee
The Advisory Committee was established at the recommendation of a statewide Criminal Justice Task Force and was responsible for the oversight and implementation of the Task Force recommendations. It monitored how the two systems progressed toward interacting productively and served in an advisory capacity for the criminal justice and mental health system. Members represented mental health and criminal justice systems, family, consumers, and advocates. The Advisory Committee discontinued meeting in 2006. The Committee laid the foundation for many of the CJ/MH programs still in place with the TDMH.

A juvenile justice work group was established as a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to assess the status of the State’s juvenile justice and mental health systems. The group was comprised of stakeholders from programs that work specifically with children and youth. The juvenile justice workgroup discontinued meeting in 2009 after making a significant contribution to the amendment of statutes related to juvenile court-ordered mental health evaluations (T.C.A. Sections 37-1-128 and 37-1-150), transforming that process to an community-based service.

Criminal Justice/Mental Health Liaison Projects
The department began establishing the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Liaison Project in communities across the state in July of 2000.

The CJ/MH Liaison Project is a community project that examines the issues affecting adults with serious mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who are involved in the criminal justice system. The purpose of the project is to facilitate communication/coordination between the community, the criminal justice and the mental health systems to achieve common goals; to support the establishment of services that would promote diversion activities; and provide liaison activities for adults with serious mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who are incarcerated or at risk of incarceration. The success of the project depends greatly on community support and the willingness of communities to work collaboratively to improve the functioning of the criminal justice and mental health service delivery systems.

The CJ/MH Liaison responsibilities include:

  • Examining the issues affecting adults with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who are incarcerated or who are at risk of becoming incarcerated
  • Facilitating communication/co-ordination between the criminal justice system, the mental health system, and the community
  • To provide liaison and case management activities for adults with a mental illness and/or substance abuse issues and who are involved in the criminal justice system
  • Training activities that include training with Tennessee Correctional Institute staff and regional training on mental health crisis management for sheriff personnel and alternative transporting agents

Contact information for the CJ/MH liaisons can be found here.

Shelby County Mental Health Services Pretrial Diversion
The Shelby County Mental Health Services Pretrial Diversion grant was established to provide staff to supervise and perform the activities of release coordinator on behalf of adults with serious mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who have been arrested.

Activities of the release coordinator include early identification, community resource builder (housing), and linkage to community resources, follow-up services, and pretrial diversion activities with the courts and public defenders office.

Tennessee Mental Health and Criminal Justice Training Program
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services applied for and received Edward R. Byrne grant funds to develop a mental health/criminal justice curriculum. This four-year curriculum development and training program for mental health and criminal justice personnel will result in a reduction in the criminalization of mental illness and/or substance abuse issues in the State of Tennessee.

The Tennessee Mental Health and Criminal Justice Training Program developed interdisciplinary training that provides an overview of mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. Curricula are targeted to the specific roles of personnel in the criminal justice and the mental health systems.

The training program provides comprehensive training, free of charge, across the spectrum of professionals and constituencies involved in both the mental health and criminal justice systems.

Training modules are available on this website.

Surveys
The Tennessee Mental Health and Criminal Justice Training Program was required to establish baseline data concerning the number of adults with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues incarcerated in county jails. Three surveys were completed. The first survey was completed in February of 2003 and the follow-up was completed in January of 2004. The third survey was completed in June of 2006. Reports on the surveys are available at this website.

The Juvenile Justice work group, a subcommittee of the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Advisory Committee, has conducted a survey of the state’s Juvenile Justice Detention Centers, Temporary Holding Centers, and other secure facilities. This report is available and can be found here.

Criminal Justice and Mental Health Links