Mayor Cooper announces new $600K mental health funding within court system

It's a first-of-its-kind investment
Coop mental health investment presser
Posted at 7:34 AM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 21:52:19-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Mayor John Cooper announced new funding for mental health services within the court system on Thursday.

The city will invest $600,000 in mental health services for the Davidson County court system. This investment is made in an effort to not criminalize mental health by offering treatment for low-level, non-violent offenses rather than sentencing jail time.

"Today’s first-of-its-kind investment will be critical in getting people struggling with mental health conditions the services and aid they need, and will allow our law enforcement and criminal justice system to focus on keeping Nashville families safe and reducing crime across the city," said Mayor Cooper. "Additionally, data analysis from the task forced showed that 30% of the population studied were unhoused, so these new resources will help us connect individuals who are homeless with the help they need to be healthy and stay off the streets. This frees up our court system to be more effective, and tax dollars to be spent more efficiently. I’d like to thank Judge Blackburn for her leadership on this issue, and commend the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing for their hard work and recommendations that led us to today."

Watch the full announcement in the video player below:

Mayor Cooper announces new mental health funding

The mayor was joined by the Task Force on Competency and Wellbeing, which was formed by Judge Melissa Blackburn in September 2020. On Thursday, the task force released recommendations to reduce and eliminate the rate of incarceration.

"We know the difference between a mental health condition and a crime. The Task Force report helps us to move forward in ensuring individuals presenting with mental health conditions are connected to the care that they need, while at the same time we continue to protect public safety," Blackburn said.

This isn't the first effort from Metro to reduce these rates. Last year the Partners in Care program was established, which places mental health specialists in police cars. Of the calls Metro Nashville Police have responded to that required a specialist on scene, 96% were connected to help while less than 4% of calls ended in arrest.

It came after a nationwide push for police departments to be better equipped to handle mental health calls.

Thursday's announcement will continue Mayor Cooper's effort to reduce or even eliminate the rate at which people find themselves repeatedly behind bars.

According to the most recent study from the Brookings Institution, the North Nashville area with the ZIP code 37208 has the highest incarceration rates in the country at just over 14%.