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From inmate to patient: A look inside Davidson County's new Behavioral Care Center

Posted at 8:08 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 21:51:52-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s been five years in the making, but in a matter of days, Davidson County will open its new Behavioral Care Center on Sept. 15.

NewsChannel 5 was given a first look inside the facility Thursday, but one of the first things to notice is the difference in design from the Davidson County Downtown Detention Center (DDC) it’s attached to.

They’ve even gone so far as to have different addresses for the two buildings, to further separate punishment from treatment.

Sheriff Daron Hall showed us the process from when someone is examined and it’s determined they suffer from some mental health issue.

“The arrested would leave booking and then eventually walk right through these doors,” Hall said.

This is where the dynamic begins to change. The clothes are different, the title is different and even some of the staff charged with care are different. While many of these professionals in scrubs were once the sheriff’s office staff, they no longer go by the title officer.

In fact, the term inmate, jail or officer won't be used at all. They’ve all been replaced by patient, center or technician.

“It tells the individual, we’re here to try to help you get better and as we release you into the community, we want your chances to be much better,” Hall said.

What Sheriff Hall has found is that 30 percent of people booked in the DDC, suffer from some mental health issue. For the past five years, Sheriff Hall says he’s reallocated $10 million in funding that would have otherwise have gone to their jail.

Instead, it helped pay for the 60-bed facility with 30 beds for men and 30 for women. Something he felt could revolutionize the way we treat the mentally ill.

”Long before the subject of defunding the police was out, we were moving money from criminal justice to do what really we should be doing for these people,” Hall said.

Patients will spend, at max, 30 days while being treated but could be out sooner. It all depends on the expert opinion of the on-site medical staff.

“I don’t want the judge to decide that. I don’t want the DA to decide that. I don’t want the sheriff to decide it. It’s really about your care,” Hall said.